Frequently Asked Questions of the Legal Team
- Legal Issues with Risking Arrest -
What usually precedes arrest?
Usually, but not always, immediately prior to arrest a warning will be given by the police to demonstrators. They will say which law(s) is (are) being broken and will say that anyone remaining will be arrested. The charges may include: trespass, resisting arrest, and obstruction of a government officer. Protestors may be given a choice whether to stay and be arrested or to leave.
How does an arrest occur and what are my choices?
You will be taken to transportation vehicles (may be handcuffed, frisked, walked with escort, carried on a stretcher, dragged/carried). Protestors have the choice to either cooperate and walk or to not cooperate and go limp so that you have to be carried.
What happens after I get arrested?
You will be processed at the police precinct. This means you will be placed in a holding area. You will be photographed, fingerprinted, and have your pockets emptied. You will also be asked for personal information. You are only required to give your name, address, and ID. You do not have to give your social security number. You may then be released from the precinct (“investigated and released”) or booked into the King County Jail.
Protestors have a choice whether to be voluntarily fingerprinted and how much personal information to give. The legal team encourages protestors to give their name to the police. Since 10/5/11, many people have been investigated and released at the precinct and not taken to jail. This has only occurred because they provided identification.
To date, police have primarily taken people to jail because they refused to identify themselves, had criminal history, and/or because the police considered them to be physically resisting detainment. Refusal to provide identification in the hope that the people arrested will get out more quickly actually has caused everyone to stay in jail for a longer period, with bail set for the entire group rather than on an individual basis.
Whether you are taken to jail or not, you may also be sent a court summons which describes the charges against you and assigns you a court date. Alternatively, you may receive a slip of paper telling you the violations of law that you are alleged to have committed. Even if there is no court date listed, it is your responsibility to discover and keep your court date in order to avoid the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.
If I am taken to jail, how long will I be there?
Once you are booked at the jail, if you are held on misdemeanor charges only, you will be seen by an employee of the Seattle Municipal Court, who can administratively release you on personal recognizance, depending on your current charges (not assault), your criminal history, and whether you have verifiable ties to the community. According to court rules, if you are not released by the person who screens you, you are supposed to be taken before a judge for a preliminary hearing by the next court day after you are detained. The judge may release you on personal recognizance or set bail.
There are many factors that determine whether or not you will be released on personal recognizance. These factors include, for our purposes, the prior court appearances of the accused person (specifically, whether they have failed to appear for a hearing), the nature of the crime (usually meaning violent vs. nonviolent), the defendant’s employment or academic status, their mental condition, the length of their residency, their ties to the community, any prior criminal history, the ability to list people who can vouch for their position in the community, the defendant’s probation or parole status.
If I have to post bail, how much is it? Will OccupySeattle bail me out?
In Washington there is a bail schedule amount established by court rules for the crime you are arrested for ($190 for trespass, $475 each for obstructing & resisting, $950 for assault). This is the amount you have to post to be released prior to going to court, unless you are released by the police at the precinct or by the court screener without bail at the jail.
If you choose to risk arrest, you should understand that it is likely that you will be released on personal recognizance by the time you get to court. The movement may post bail if the funds are available and the court does not release you on personal recognizance. If you have other resources to make bail, it is helpful if you can rely on those, as posting large cash bails will rapidly drain our funds. If the movement does post bail for you, please consider that you need to return for all your court hearings so that those funds are not forfeited and are eventually returned to the movement.
Are there any conditions on bail?
If you post the bail schedule amount, there are no conditions of release other than returning to court. However, once you go to court, the court can impose additional conditions of continued release if it determines that you are a risk not to return to court or a risk to commit a violent crime if released. Assault or resisting arrest may be considered a violent crime for this analysis.
What will happen if I violate the condition of my release?
The court may forfeit your bail (keep it) and take you back into custody (by means of a warrant for your arrest). If you are arrested for a new crime, the fact that you did not comply with conditions of release will be considered in determining whether you should be released without bail on the new charge(s).
If I need a lawyer and I cannot afford one, who should I call?
There will be public defense screeners at arraignment and you can screen with them for financial eligibility for public defense. Public defenders are available at all intake/arraignment hearings without you having to arrange for them in advance. OccupySeattle has a team of pro bono attorneys who may be available to defend you as well. If such representation is available, the lawyers will be at your first court hearing & will be available to meet with you before subsequent hearings. OccupySeattle’s legal workgroup tracks arrestees (if we have or learn your name) to find out whether you are still in custody and when you will appear in court, so that we can arrange legal representation. It is helpful if you are released to report back to the legal workgroup so we can track your court date and stop looking for you in the jail!
IF YOU HAVE BEEN ARRESTED:
People can go to the Municipal Court website (http://web1.seattle.gov/courts/cpi/), choose “online services,” click on “defendant” on the menu bar on the left, and see if they have a court date scheduled. The service also shows charges, events and obligations (e.g., bail) in the case.