Skip to Content

Can I Get Arrested for Protesting in Texas?

Can I Get Arrested for Protesting in Texas?

Participating in protest demonstrations can be a constructive and empowering way to express your views and advocate for change as a U.S. citizen. Like voting, the right to assemble is a civil liberty that many of us take for granted. In our current political climate, understanding how to lawfully participate in protests is essential to avoid severe consequences, including arrest and imprisonment.

How can protest demonstrators exercise their First Amendment rights while protecting their safety and freedom? Keep reading to learn more about lawful protesting in Texas.

Understanding the Right to Assemble

The right to assemble is included under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

In other words, citizens have the right to gather in a public place and express their views without fear of government censorship or retribution. However, despite these legal protections, it’s important to understand that the government can regulate how you choose to exercise these rights.

What Constitutes an “Unlawful Assembly” in Texas?

While the First Amendment guarantees the right to assemble, it also allows for some state and local government regulation. In Texas, these laws include obtaining permits for certain types of protests, prohibiting the blocking of public roadways or disrupting public services, and defining what constitutes unlawful assembly.

Under Texas Penal Code § 42.02, an “unlawful assembly” is a gathering of three or more persons with the common intent to engage in conduct that “constitutes a riot” or related offenses. Texas law also states that an assembly is unlawful if individuals are carrying weapons while engaging in conduct likely to cause “serious bodily injury.”

Protesting on Public vs. Private Property

It can be confusing to interpret the legal nuances of protesting, especially when it comes to location. Here are some fundamental rights that protestors should know in Texas:

  • Public property: In Texas, you have the right to protest freely in public spaces, including streets, sidewalks, and parks, as long as you aren’t obstructing traffic. On public property, you also have the right to take photos of law enforcement and anything in plain view.
  • Government buildings: You have the right to protest in front of government buildings. However, you may not block access to the building or interfere with the building’s functions.
  • Private property: While you can freely protest in public, private property is a different story. If you wish to participate in a protest on private property, it’s imperative to obtain the owner’s permission first. The property owner has the right to set certain restrictions for the protest.

Types of Criminal Charges in Protest Demonstrations

Common grounds for arrest in protest demonstrations include crossing state lines to break the law and damaging federal property. In today’s political climate, unlawful protesting can lead to felony charges and serious penalties, making it crucial to know and exercise your rights accordingly.

Common types of criminal charges faced by protestors include:

1. Assault & Battery

Assault and battery is codified in Texas Penal Code § 22.01. This statute defines assault as intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly causing bodily injury to someone else, while battery entails intentional and harmful physical contact with another person without their consent.

2. Obstructing Traffic

Blocking traffic during a protest can result in criminal charges. In Texas, Texas Penal Code § 42.03 defines obstructing a highway or other passageway as “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” disrupting the flow of traffic.

3. Trespassing

Trespassing is another common criminal offense in protest demonstrations. Under Texas Penal Code § 30.05, protestors may be charged with trespassing if they protest on private property without the owner’s permission or block access to government facilities and other public buildings.

4. Looting

Under Texas Penal Code § 31.03, individuals caught stealing from businesses or other establishments during a protest can be charged with looting, leading to harsh criminal penalties if convicted.

5. Vandalism & Criminal Mischief

Under Texas Penal Code § 28.03, protestors can also face charges for vandalism and criminal mischief if they damage property, deface public monuments or buildings, or interfere with government operations during a protest demonstration.

What to Do if You’re Arrested During a Protest

If you’re arrested while protesting in Texas, it’s essential to understand your rights. You have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions or provide any information without an attorney present. Additionally, you have the right to request an attorney, to be free from excessive force, and to receive medical attention if necessary.

It’s crucial to stay as calm as possible and comply with instructions from law enforcement during an arrest, as resisting arrest or being combative can escalate the situation and even lead to additional charges. Once you’re booked, you have the right to make a phone call and request legal representation. Securing a strong defense from a qualified defense attorney is paramount to safeguard your rights and freedom.

Aggressively Defending Your Rights in Denton County

If you’re facing criminal charges, securing a robust defense is imperative to protect your rights and hard-earned reputation. Our seasoned attorney has over 15 years of experience defending Texans against a wide range of criminal offenses, from drug crimes to DWI defense to sex offenses. As a former prosecutor with a proven track record of results, you can trust Attorney Derek A. Adame to aggressively defend your freedom and future. Whether you were unaware of the illegality of your actions or made an honest mistake, we can fight tirelessly to reduce or dismiss the charges against you.

Arrested in Denton County? Turn to our firm for the robust defense you deserve. Call (940) 441-4239 to schedule a free consultation.