Lawmakers Propose Legislation that Could Criminalize Protesters

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech. According to the U.S. Courts Website, the Supreme Court has often “struggled to determine what constitutes protected speech.” Free speech has sometimes been limited or restricted on school property and when freedom of speech could potentially harm others. However, the right to free speech is one of our nation’s most cherished freedoms.

Yet, according to the Washington Post, the basic right to assemble and protest may be under threat. The Washington Post reports that, in at least 18 states, Michigan among them, lawmakers have proposed bills that would target protestors and potentially criminalize certain tactics. The laws differ from state to state, but they include laws that would target protestors who block roadways, limit liability on drivers who hit protestors with their cars, and possibly even seize the assets of people who engage in protests that become violent. Many critics of the proposed laws claim that, were they to be passed, they would be struck down by the Supreme Court. According to the Washington Post, Michigan’s proposed laws would increase fines for those charged with “mass picketing.” The law would also make it easier for law enforcement to stop large protests.

There have already been cases where peaceful protestors have faced criminal charges just for being present in locations where protestors became violent. These charges could have a huge impact on a person’s freedom, criminal record, and rights. Even under current laws, protestors can face prosecution if they find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, Gordon & Hess, P.L.C. are criminal defense lawyers in Grand Rapids, Michigan who may be able to help you.

In some states, lawmakers are proposing bills that would criminalize “economic disruption.” These bills target protestors speaking out against oil pipelines or water access rights. According to the Atlantic, prosecutors could theoretically seek misdemeanor and even felony charges if the law were to be passed.

Misdemeanor and felony charges can have an immense impact on a person’s rights. In some states, a felony conviction can impact your right to vote, can limit your access to federal financial aid programs for school and housing, and can impact your ability to be employed in certain fields. These proposed laws are frightening because they attempt to suppress citizens’ right to free speech, while also limiting the freedom of those who are convicted.

If you’ve been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, contact Gordon & Hess, P.L.C., criminal defense attorneys in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our firm fights to protect the innocent and works to ensure that our clients receive the fair trial that they deserve. We can review the details of your case and arrest, develop a strong defense strategy, and help you get the best outcome for your case. When your freedom, your reputation, and your future may be on the line, you need a qualified criminal defense lawyer on your side.


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