Criminal Defense and your Legal Right to Protest in Florida

Law : Protest Crowd

   Throughout the nation, there has been a massive wave of protests against race-based police brutality, sparked by the death of Minneapolis resident, George Floyd. This fatal event occurred on May 25, 2020, while he was in police custody. Due to the enormity of the protests and the outrage of Florida’s citizens, Governor Ron DeSantis activated the Florida National Guard on 5/31/2020.

The right to protest peaceably is protected under the First Amendment of our country’s Constitution, which supports freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. However, in these highly charged emotional times, many protesters resort to less than peaceful means, resulting in arrests for State and Federal crimes. Engaging in physical violence, property damage, or interfering with the normal flow of traffic leads to arrests at the discretion of law enforcement officers, who are the object of the protests.

The AP Law Group Solves the Toughest Legal Challenges

If you are arrested or detained for a protest-related crime, it is crucial to contact a criminal defense attorney to advocate for your rights. 

There is a fine line between civil rights and civil disorder, and a conviction can have long-term consequences for your future. The AP Law Group understands the community’s cries for change, and we can protect your First Amendment rights. Attorneys Tania Alavi and Andrew Pozzuto are seasoned lawyers, with over fifty years of combined legal experience in a wide range of State and Federal Criminal Law cases.  

   Some of the recent misdemeanor arrest charges in the State of Florida at protest sites were for disorderly conduct, petit theft, violation of emergency management rule or order, and resisting arrest without violence. If convicted, the penalties for misdemeanor crimes are monetary fines, probation, and up to one year in prison, depending on the defendant’s criminal history.

   Felony crimes at protest sites can have severe consequences. Penalties can result in a considerable length of incarceration with hefty, monetary fines, or life imprisonment. Weapons charges, depending on the circumstances, can be a misdemeanor or a felony, with the most serious being a firearm charge for a convicted felon or a weapon used during a crime commission.

 Two examples of high- profile arrests that occurred during recent protests in the State of Florida are: 

  • The arrest of Ivan Jacob Zecher, in Jacksonville, Florida on 5/31/2020, for allegedly bringing a Molotov cocktail to a protest. An explosive device is a firearm under Federal law. His criminal charges include possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in federal prison on each charge.
  • The arrest of Abraham Naveed Quaraishi on 6/4/2020 for allegedly throwing an object at the St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Halloway and another police official. He was found to have a gun on his person and was charged with concealing a firearm in the commission of a felony, inciting a riot, and resisting an officer with violence. There is an additional misdemeanor charge of unlawful assembly.  

Serious felony arrests at the site of recent protests have included rioting or inciting to riot, fleeing or attempting to elude, resisting arrest with violence, possession of burglary tools, burglary of a structure, theft of a structure during an emergency and aggravated battery. Penalties for all convictions are at the discretion of the court and depend mainly on the criminal history of the person committing the crimes and the circumstances surrounding the events.

We are Skilled and Proven Negotiators with Trial Experience

    If arrested at a protest, you have a right to ask what the charges are. Remain silent and contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If detained by law enforcement, it is helpful to get contact information from witnesses and write down everything that you remember, including the law enforcement officer’s name and agency. As the protests against racism, police brutality, and the criminal justice system continue, we will fight to uphold fair and equal treatment of our citizens through the law’s due process.

The AP Law Group defends clients in Gainesville, Ocala, and the surrounding Florida counties. Contact us at 352-732-9191.