The 5 Most Common Criminal Charges for Philadelphia Protestors, Defenders, & Rioters
Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals charged with a wide variety of crimes offenses and crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey ranging from summary to felony offenses. Recent protests in and around Philadelphia have created a potential legal situation for those on both sides of the issues related to racial discrimination, President Donald Trump, Christopher Columbus in South Philadelphia, and even controversially former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo’s statue and mural. Our law firm has received several calls from individuals and families concerned about criminal charges from these events.
The 5 most common criminal charges, based on the conduct that we have observed on videos from these protests and those opposing the protesters (aka defenders) are as follows:
- Simple assault (Title 18, Section 2701)
- Harassment (Title 18, Section 2709)
- Aggravated assault (Title 18, Section 2702)
- Rioting (Title 18, Section 5501)
- Terroristic Threats (Title 18, Section 2706)
In Pennsylvania, simple assault occurs when one attempts to cause, knowingly causes, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. Simple assault also occurs if a person negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or attempts, by physical menace, to put another in fear of serious bodily injury. In most situations simple assault is a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree.
Unlike simple assault, harassment does not require the prosecution to establish beyond a reasonable doubt any type of bodily injury but occurs when a person strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects another person to physical contact or threatens to do the same. In most situations, a harassment charge is a summary offense in Pennsylvania unless it occurs repeatedly. This is one of the most common crimes charged during protests and other periods of civil unrest in and around the Philadelphia metropolitan area
Aggravated assault, unlike simple assault and harassment, is a felony charge and occurs when a person attempts to cause or causes serious bodily injury to another. In Pennsylvania serious bodily injury is defined very broadly but it would include the impairment of a vital organ within the body, broken bones, and even stitches. Keep in mind that if a aggravated assault can occur against a police officer and the prosecution isn’t required to prove serious bodily injury but only bodily injury which is the evidentiary standard for simple assault. Police officers and other protected classes like EMS, firefighters, judges, and district attorneys are especially protected under the law. An aggravated assault, in most situations, is a felony of the first degree but can also be graded as a felony of the 2nd degree.
Other charges that individuals could potentially face include terroristic threats (2706). A Terroristic threat is a misdemeanor charge and it occurs when a person communicates directly or indirectly a threat to commit any crime of violence with the intent to terrorize or causes serious public inconvenience (AKA a riot). In almost all situations a terroristic threat is a misdemeanor of the first degree unless the threat causes the interruption of public transportation or their operation, in which case it is a felony of the third degree.
Riots are occurring around the country and unfortunately, in the city of Philadelphia, along in its surrounding Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester counties and throughout South Jersey (Camden, Salem Cumberland, Gloucester, Burlington, Mercer, Cape May, Atlantic.)
Rioting is felony criminal charge in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Rioting is a felony criminal charge in Pennsylvania and New Jersey! It is a felony of the 3rd degree in Pennsylvania and a person is guilty of a riot if he or she, with 2 or more persons, engages in a disorderly course of conduct with an intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a felony or misdemeanor. A riot also occurs if a group of individuals attempts to prevent or coerce officials such as the local police or the National Guard from restoring order. In addition to a riot charge, a person who engages in such activity, can also be charged with robbery, burglary, or criminal trespass. All these charges are felonies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Failure to Disperse Criminal Charge
In addition to these charges, a person who fails to abide by curfew or other government restrictions, could face a charge of failure to disperse upon official order (See Title 18 § 5502). Unlike robbery, burglary, trespassing, and rioting, this is a misdemeanor charge (misdemeanor of the 2nd degree). Disorderly conduct is a lesser included offense within failure to disperse. It is a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree but can also be graded as a summary charge.
Other Criminal Charges
Criminal trespass is a felony offense in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It is a felony of the 3rd degree if a person gains entry by subterfuge or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure or any portion of it. It is a felony of the 2nd degree if a person breaks into a building or occupied structure.
Trespassing can also be graded as a misdemeanor (misdemeanor of the 3rd degree—defiant trespasser) if the person enters or remains to any place to which notice to trespass is given either through actual communication to the actor or through signage.
Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP)
Finally, recklessly endangering another person (REAP) is a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree and it is committed when a person recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another in danger of death or serious bodily injury (2705).
If you have been charged with any crime following a protest or an alleged riot in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact our law firm to discuss your case.
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