The Occupy Wall Street movement has garnered national and worldwide attention, encouraging others throughout the United States and across the planet to protest government, big business and other causes.
But this has come with a downside — criminal charges. Because most cities allow peaceful demonstrations, but require permits, have time limits and don’t allow people to sleep on the streets, many protesters have been arrested and carted off to jail.
Thomson Reuters recently reported that disorderly conduct charges against more than 700 people will stand. Disorderly conduct charges in New York against these protesters are simply a misdemeanor, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have long-term effects like a felony conviction could.
When people are arrested at a young age, it can sometimes be attributed to youth and poor decision-making. But that doesn’t mean the mark goes away. In fact, a misdemeanor conviction can stay on a person’s record forever, causing them problems finding work, getting into college or qualifying to serve in the military.
Most people may consider a misdemeanor a slap on the wrist, but a conviction can result in jail time, probation, fines and fees, other sanctions as well as it sticking with a person for life. People’s attitudes change over time and they may find themselves changing careers or looking to erase bad acts of the past. But after a conviction, it’s too late.
According to Thomson Reuters, a liberal legal organization had asked the district attorney to drop charges against the protesters, threatening to take any case to trial of a defendant who didn’t want to accept a plea or pay a fine.
But the D.A. refused to bargain, instead offering adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. In New York, this means that the case will be postponed for a certain amount of time — in this case six months — and if the defendant doesn’t pick up a second arrest during that time the charges will be dismissed and the case sealed from public view.
Of the 700 arrests between locations at Union Square and the Brooklyn Bridge, only 340 names appeared on the prosecution’s offer, the news service reports. Other defendants received a summons to appear in court on a certain date.
Accepting the offer of adjournment could discourage protesters from participating in other planned demonstrations for fear they would get arrested. A second arrest would make those deals moot and give them additional legal troubles.
Protesters nationwide have caused local law enforcement agencies to fill up their jails with non-violent suspects, while they could be using their time better served finding real criminals. These may be more political moves than criminal investigations, but the bottom line is that arrests are being made and people require legal representation.
When a person is arrested, his or her life is turned upside down. They typically panic and wonder what the future will hold. Their first step should be to contact an aggressive Great Neck criminal defense lawyer, who has the skills and experience to guide them through the process. Whether misdemeanor or felony, the criminal justice system can be daunting and shouldn’t be handled alone.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides criminal defense legal counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.
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Jurors Shouldn’t Be Dismissed For Being Gay, Attorney Argues in Criminal Appeal: August 31, 2011
New York D.A. declines to drop charges against protesters, by Erin Geiger Smith and Joseph Ax, Thomson Reuters