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Freddie Gray Protests Show that Anyone Can be Accused and Arrested of a Crime

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 04, 2015 | 0 Comments

On April 12, 2015, an officer out on bike patrol chased down Gray and arrested him for “possession of a switchblade.” Eyewitnesses report Gray screaming and asking for medical attention. By April 19, a week later, Gray was dead. Autopsy reports indicate that Gray's neck was broken and his spinal cord was nearly severed while he was in police custody- the theory being that he was critically injured to a police “rough ride.”His death sparked wave of daily protests in west Baltimore that boiled over into riots throughout the last week of April. By April 27, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and even imposed a 10pm curfew.

Meanwhile, back home, the Pacific Northwest has joined the wave of national protests that have occurred in support of the Baltimore protests. This weekend, media outlets reported incidences demonstrators ‘clashing' with police in Seattle and Portland as they marched to decry racism and brutality.In Seattle, police said marchers threw wrenches, sticks and rocks at officers in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood Friday evening, injuring three officers. Police responded with pepper spray and pepper balls and arrested 15 people. Several dozen vehicles were reported damaged. Social unrest and protests are expected to increase as the public becomes increasingly aware of incidences such as Gray's death through the power of the internet. However, with activism, also comes arrests of protestors.

Washington State ‘Riot' Laws

Under both federal and state law, rioting is a crime. Under18 USC § 2102, “a riot is a public disturbance involving an act of violence by one or more persons assembled in a group of at least three people.” The statute applies to anyone who instigates, encourages, or participates in a riot- all felonies, under 5 USC § 7313.

In the state of Washington, rioting may constitute either disorderly conduct (which is referred to as a public disturbance offense), criminal mischief, or malicious mischief. RCW 9A.84.030 defines disorderly conduct as: using abusive language to create a risk of assault, intentionally disrupting a lawful assembly, or intentionally obstructing vehicle or pedestrian traffic. It is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. First-time offenders should be eligible for some type of diversion program, including a “post-and-forfeit” arrangement.

Alternatively, a person is guilty of criminal mischief if acting with 3 or more persons “threatens to use force” against another person or property. See RCW 9A.84.010. It is classified as a gross misdemeanor (punishable of up to 364 days in prison), or a Class C felony if the threat is done with a “deadly weapon” such as a bat or stick, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment.

Lastly, if you are accused of damaging another person's property in Washington state, you may also be charged with malicious mischief. Malicious Mischief is a Class B felony with up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.

Notably, the Washington riot laws does not even cover the plethora of other charge that police may stick on you. Participating in peaceful protests as shown by the recent current events puts you at risk for charges of: resisting arrest, failure to obey a peace officer, trespassing, etc. Moreover, as shown by the Freddie Gray protests, there have been mass arrests of medics, students, and legal observers without formal charges. In situations such as these, it is sometimes difficult for police to sift out those who are actually damaging property and threatening violence and those that are merely demonstrating peacefully but it illustrates the fact that almost anyone can be arrested for almost anything.

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About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.

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