The right to assemble peacefully, as well as free speech, is written into our nation’s foundational laws. While the First Amendment to the United States Constitution does protect free speech, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recognizes several exceptions including incitement to imminent criminal acts or “true threats.” So, if the protest goes beyond peaceful assembly or speech incites criminal acts, the protection of the Constitution may not be available to participants.
Beyond Protest, But Not Treason
Earlier this year, swarms of people stormed the U.S. Capitol after a rally in Washington, D.C. supporting former President Trump. The mob entered the federal building by force in an effort to disrupt Congress’s formal certification of then President-elect Biden’s victory over Trump. While those who briefly occupied the Capital may have violated a laundry list of federal crimes, one of those crimes is not treason. This is because the treason statute applies to a person or persons who “levies war against [the United States] or adheres to their enemies.” Treason is likely not to apply to the mob unless former President Trump can qualify as an “enemy of the state.”
The federal crimes that were likely committed include:
- Engaging in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereo. Punishment for someone committing this crime is up to 10 years in prison;
- Inciting a rebellion results in a violator being “incapable of holding any office under the United States.” Any government officials who were involved or complicit in the riot could possibly be removed from office;
- Sedition conspiracy “by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” or to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States.” Those found participating in such a conspiracy could result in up to 20 years in prison;
- It is against federal law to, by violence, “knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity,desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” Offenders face up to 20 years in prison and may be prohibited from working for the federal government for up to five years;
- It is criminal to riot, or to incite a riot, or to aid or abet anyone participating or inciting a riot. Violation of this statute could result in up to five years in prison;
- Knowingly possessing or causing a firearm or other dangerous weapon to be present in a federal facility is against the law, wth punishment of up to one year in prison. If someone brings a weapon into a federal facility with the intent to be used in the commission of a crime the possible imprisonment goes to up to five years.
In short, although the Constitution grants freedom of speech and the right to freely assemble, these are not carte blanche rights.
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If you have questions about the law or have been hurt in Nevada, contact the personal injury attorneys at H&P Law. With offices conveniently located in Henderson and Las Vegas, we can help explain your rights and obligations. Do not delay, contact us today.