Freedom of speech is a very basic right that all people have. While people have the right to protest and picket, there are restrictions to this. One situation in which you are not legally able to picket or protest is in a situation in when you are doing so near a courthouse in an attempt to obstruct justice. This situation is specifically covered under California Penal Code Section 169 PC. This makes it illegal to specifically ticket in protest near a courthouse with the intent of obstructing justice.
Definition of Crime
The violation of California Penal Code Section 169 PC can be somewhat complicated to prove and is not always completely clear in its definition. Since freedom of speech is guaranteed under the federal and State of California constitutions, making sure that the law is in compliance with these rules is challenging. For someone to be charged and convicted of California Penal Code Section 169 PC, three different elements need to be met.
To be convicted of this crime, the defendant will first need to be located inside or very close to a courthouse or other building where legal proceedings will be taking place. The defendant will also need to be clearly trying to interfere with the process by either blocking entry or doing something else to try and delay the legal process. Someone can also be convicted of the crime if it can be proven that they were trying to influence a judge, witness, juror, or some other party involved in the legal case at hand.
For those that are charged with this crime, there are several other similar and related crimes that they could also be charged with. Some common charges that are also filed along with this include Disturbing a Public Meeting, Refusing to Disperse, or Unlawful Assembly.
While actual charges of this crime are not very common, there are still some common defenses that are used to fight the crime. The most common defense strategy is to claim that the protest was in line with the defendant’s civil rights. Since someone is able by law to protest, it can be difficult for a prosecutor to clearly prove that someone was trying to obstruct justice as opposed to simply obeying their rights in a peaceful manner.
If you are charged with obstructing justice when you are picketing near a courthouse, there are some penalties that could be given. Those that are charged and convicted with the crime will normally be charged with some court fees and fines, be required to complete community service, and may be charged with probation. However, the state law does allow someone to spend as much as 180 days in jail. The more serious penalties are typically reserved for people that have a prior record or are on probation for a similar crime.
While the overall penalties to this are not too significant, the impact of this could have a lasting affect on someone’s life. This will be a misdemeanor that will be on someone’s background check for the rest of their lives. This could make it harder for someone to qualify for some jobs or even rent an apartment.
Since being charged with a violation of California Penal Code Section 169 PC can lead to serious penalties, you should hire an attorney whenever you are charged. An attorney will be able to work with you to develop a strategy to help you receive a lower sentence and possibly have the charges dropped entirely. The attorney will be able to figure out whether the situations was actually obstruction of justice or if you were within your rights afforded by the constitution.