Pretrial Release Conditions: When They Violate Your Constitutional Rights
We previously reported on federal agents being deployed to cities across the country to arrest protesters without warrants and placing them into unmarked SUVs. A number of those arrested are now awaiting trial on federal misdemeanor charges even though they did not do anything illegal upon arrest, and are now facing petty offense charges, such as “failing to comply with a lawful order” and “disorderly conduct.”
In addition, according to the latest reports out of ProPublica, the release of a number of these protesters from jail has been made conditional on signing away their rights to attend future protests, which violates their First Amendment rights to free assembly. Specifically, reports indicate that they have had to agree to a number of conditions in order to be released from jail–none of which relate to any legitimate goals of pretrial release–including:
- Abiding by a curfew;
- Appearing for court dates;
- Avoiding the area surrounding the federal courthouse; and
- Not attending any future demonstrations within city and state limits.
One defendant even described the public defender as “chuckl[ing]” with him “because [he] didn’t actually do anything illegal,” while still telling him that if he wanted to be out of jail that day, he would have to take these terms of his release.
When The Government Can Impose Terms of Release
While defendants do sometimes give up certain rights as a condition of their release, these are typically narrow and directly related to the basis of their prosecution and what is in the interest of public safety. In addition, defendants retain the presumption of innocence during the pretrial period.
In addition, where courts have imposed conditions, they have been on convicted defendants released on parole or probation or those indicted and awaiting trial. This is because any limitation on free speech must be imposed cautiously, where a restriction furthers a compelling government interest in protecting the public from further crimes coordinated very specifically, and where it does not restrict discourse by any other means. For example, defendants indicted for hacking might face a pretrial release condition barring them from using a particular program on the internet which helped them to coordinate their attacks.
These Current Conditions Are Unconstitutional
These particular conditions imposed on those arrested and being held for protesting, however, are overly broad and lack any connection to public safety, and would not be upheld by a federal court, especially since they are speech-restrictive pretrial release conditions. What is especially concerning is that none of these individuals had been tried and convicted of any offense yet, including a misdemeanor. Still, it is important to also remember that even if convicted, the government cannot require citizens to relinquish their First Amendment rights.
If You Are Arrested for Protesting in Florida, Contact The Best Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Lawyer
You have the right to assemble, and this cannot be criminalized. If you have been arrested, never agree to signing away your rights without speaking with your own defense attorney.
When you simply accept advice from a public defender, you never know if it is going to be in your best interest. The Baez Law Firm is known for providing the very best in criminal defense services to clients here in Florida. Contact our Orlando criminal lawyers today for a free consultation to find out more about what we do for our clients.