According to the First Amendment, we have the freedom fundamental right to assemble and peacefully protest. However, this right has certain limits.
For example, while you can protest on public sidewalks, plazas, and parks, you need a permit to march in the streets - as long as the requirements to obtain a permit does not infringe on your right to protest. You are also not allowed to block access to buildings and sidewalks, incite violence, make offensive statements, and interfere with counter-protesters.
Committing any of these violations may result in “unlawful assembly,” which is a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum six-month jail sentence. The definition of unlawful assembly is broad and wide discretion is given to law enforcement officials to arrest protesters.
According to the California Supreme Court, the unlawful assembly law prohibits only gatherings that are violent or present imminent danger of violence. Large and noisy assembly – even if it is promoting an unpopular idea – is not enough to charge a protester with unlawful assembly.
Remember, the First Amendment does not cover private property in California. The only exception to this rule is a shopping mall.
If you or a loved one has been recently charged with unlawful assembly in Los Angeles or Orange County, The Law Office of Jacqueline Goodman is ready to protect your First Amendment Right to peacefully protest. There are a number of legal defenses we can use to help you avoid conviction, such as you did not perpetrate any violence or threat of violence, you were part of a peaceful faction of protesters, or you were not given ample time to vacate the area prior to your arrest.