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What Are My Rights as a Protestor?

Posted by Howard Stein | Jul 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

Protestors' Rights in Washington State

There is much confusion regarding citizens' rights when protesting or joining a demonstration. In order to make your protest safe and maximally effective, it is essential to understand your rights and any legal restrictions that pertain to the nature of your speech, the manner in which you express your dissent, and the place where you choose to make your voice heard.

Restrictions on Location

Broadly speaking, you are permitted to express your views in public places, such as parks, city streets, and other publicly accessible areas. However, you do not have the right to protest as you see fit on private property that is not your own or without the property owner's permission.

While you are legally allowed to protest in most public places, you may sometimes need a permit in order to do so. This is typically true in cases of rallies, parades, large-scale marches that will inhibit the flow of traffic, and any protest where you intend to use microphones, megaphones, or other loudspeakers.

In Seattle and the surrounding areas, you may apply for a special event permit if you plan to protest in a park or in an area that will stop traffic or require road-blocking.

Restrictions on Speech

Members of law enforcement may not discriminate or punish you for freely expressing your views. However, there are some forms of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment and can result in your protest being shut down, such as:

  • Speech that encourages violent retaliation or lawlessness
  • Speech that is highly obscene and would be patently offensive to the average person
  • Speech that threatens another person or group with physical injury or death

If you feel police are discriminating against you because of the content of your speech rather than inappropriate delivery, you must seek legal representation from an experienced defense attorney in Bellevue right away.

Inappropriate Conduct by Law Enforcement

Your rights may have been violated if any of the following are true:

  • Police are allowing another group to speak freely and in a similar manner while taking punitive action against your demonstration.
  • Police ask you not to distribute pamphlets, books, flyers, or other constitutionally protected literature.
  • Police search you without your consent. (While some searches may be legal, many searches cannot be carried out without your consent.)
  • Police demand to see pictures or video footage you have taken, despite not having a warrant.
  • Police attempt to shut down your protests, despite your having all the necessary permits and meeting essential time, place, and manner restrictions.

Connect with a Skilled Defense Attorney in Bellevue Immediately by Calling (425) 559-9449

Contact a member of our team at Stein, Lotzkar & Starr, P.S. right away if members of law enforcement have violated your First Amendment rights to protest and speak your mind. Our Bellevue criminal defense lawyers have the knowledge and skill necessary to protect you from unfair treatment and make sure you are not unfairly penalized. Even if you are unsure whether your rights have been violated, reach out to our firm and allow us to provide you with the trustworthy legal guidance you need.

Send us an email to schedule your free consultation and secure strong, effective legal representation.

About the Author

Howard Stein

Firm Partner, Personal Injury, and Criminal Defense Attorney Howard Stein has been practicing law for over 30 years in Washington State. He has experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney, attorney fighting for those who have been injured and as a judge pro tem. He also teaches other attorneys ...

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