Protesters defy curfew, found not guilty
A recent court case in Philadelphia confirmed your right to express your political opinions at any time, despite your local curfew. Numerous teenagers were arrested and then acquitted after they violated a public park’s curfew by camping out overnight to bring attention to the plight of the homeless.
If you are arrested for being out past curfew and you are wearing something with a political statement, then plead innocent and use this court decision at your trial. Your judge doesn’t have to abide by the decision since it was made by a municipal judge in Philadelphia, but it will have an effect. Also, the case clearly indicates how you and your lawyer should handle your case.
At the trial, the city’s district attorney emphasized that the teenagers had clearly violated the city’s curfew. He added that the curfew was enacted for, “the safety and well-being of the citizens of Philadelphia.”
Judge Eric L. Lilian responded by saying that citizens have the right to protest “against grievances, and sometimes that takes the form of civil disobedience,” like the participants in the Boston tea tax protest and “all the people we look up to the most.”
The group’s defense lawyer L. Felipe Restrepo said the defendants were trying to “effectuate some sort of change,” and felt their action was justified.
Lilian said the question was whether the curfew law “meets the muster of constitutionality.” He added that “there is no question they broke the law.”
“I do not think the question of constitutionality is before this court,” countered the city’s District Attorney.
“The question of constitutionality is always before the court,” replied Lilian.
“They didn’t hurt anybody or cause a disturbance,” added the judge. “They weren’t charged with smoking pot. I don’t think they should be criminalized. I find them not guilty.”
This case is revolutionary. Though Philadelphia’s park curfew was probably ruled Constitutional, people can still defy it if they are expressing a political opinion.
Your local police will probably tell you that your curfew is also Constitutional. Nonetheless, you know that you also have a Constitutional right to protest at any time. But don’t tell that to the cop. Keep quiet and tell it to the judge, when you sue the city for $50,000.
Learn more about your rights. Read this essential article about how judges decide cases