Occupy Wall Street: What Disorderly Conduct & Other Criminal Arrests Mean to a Protester’s Future

We can all agree to disagree on the merits, impact and value of Occupy Wall Street sit-ins, protests and mere presence in lower Manhattan. Whether protesters blocking the Brooklyn Bridge hurt the blue collar and regular working class person trying to get to and from work or their actions truly intensified the light on certain Wall Street practices is certainly up to debate. However, one thing we can all likely agree on is that any arrest, whether it be for Disorderly Conduct (NY PL 240.20), Resisting Arrest (NY PL 205.30) or Obstructing Governmental Administration (NY PL 190.05), can have serious impacts to the futures of those arrested years after they have left the streets of New York City behind. While a summons for Disorderly Conduct is probably the least of their concerns, Resisting Arrest and Obstruction of Governmental Administration are both misdemeanors. How Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance decides what to do with these cases is yet to be seen, but the potential for these men and women to damage their futures is great.

Disorderly Conduct: New York Penal Law 240.20 Although not a precise legal definition, if you are disorderly and cause public inconvenience or alarm, obstruct the flow of traffic or act in a violent manner, the NYPD and prosecutors can charge you with Disorderly Conduct. Not a crime, a conviction for this offense would not give you a criminal record. What is concerning, however, is if you are printed for Disorderly Conduct or any crime and you ultimately plea to this violation, there is a real possibility that it will show up on future background checks. While a Disorderly Conduct seals (or should seal), there has been litigation over arrest charges and pleas to Disorderly Conduct showing up months and years after the cases are resolved. No New York criminal lawyer can tell you whether your case will properly seal or seal in a manner as to prevent the public from learning of your arrest charges. Regardless, before taking a plea to a violation of Disorderly Conduct have a long and in depth conversation with your counsel as to the ramifications and collateral consequences of such a plea.

Resisting Arrest: New York Penal Law 205.30 If you intentionally prevent or attempt to prevent a police officer with the NYPD from making a lawful arrest, then you can be charged with Resting Arrest. Simply put, if you waive your arms, refuse to put them behind your back or pull your arms away, the police and prosecutors can charge you with this crime. It is imperative to recognize that this offense is a crime and a misdemeanor. While NY PL 205.30 is punishable by up to one year in jail, jail is generally not an issue for first or second time offenders in New York City. The greater issues is whether you will end up saddled with a criminal record if convicted. Alternatively, if prosecutors only offer you a Disorderly Conduct plea deal, there are issues (as discussed above) with sealing. Remember, if you are in a situation where tempers have been elevated it is critical that you remain calm. If you are going to be arrested there is likely little you can do at that immediate time. By flailing around and pulling away, you are giving law enforcement the tools to take your non-criminal actions and make them criminal.

Obstructing Governmental Administration: New York Penal Law 190.05 If you prevent or attempt to prevent the police or other governmental agency from performing an official or governmental function by interference or physical force, then the District Attorney’s Office can charge you with this misdemeanor crime. Like Resisting Arrest, a charge of NY PL 190.05 is not likely to land a first or second time offender a stretch on Rikers Island. More concerning is the risk of a criminal record or a Disorderly Conduct offer. While not a catch all, to avoid being charged with this crime, do not interfere by, for example, blocking the police from a friend who is to be arrested or refusing to walk or move upon being arrested. Do not give law enforcement the tools to charge you with a crime where your conduct was otherwise not criminal in nature.

Occupy Wall Street Protestors: What to Do if Arrest for These Offenses If you are given a summons, Desk Appearance Ticket or are arrested for Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest or Obstructing Governmental Administration, there is no catch all defining what your next step should be. Having said that, there are a few critical things to discuss with your legal counsel. What impact will a violation or non-criminal Disorderly Conduct plea have on your future? Are you eligible or able to get an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) whereby your case is dismissed and sealed in six months. In that regard, how and why is New York Criminal Procedure Law 170.55 important to you? Was your underlying arrest lawful? If it was not, should the charge of Resisting Arrest be dismissed? Assuming you are not interested in working out a disposition, what are your chances of beating the case at trial or utilizing “speedy trial” laws to dispose of the charges? Whatever your discussions may incorporate, make sure you and your criminal attorney vet the charges. That last thing you need is a Scarlet Letter to wear well after the protest has ended.

For practical and legal analysis of Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest and Obstructing Governmental Administration, please either follow the highlighted links above or search for these offenses on the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com. A review of NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com will reveal extensive information on these and other crimes, statutes, valuable cases and commentary on cases in the news.

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