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The Justice System

The first amendment of the United States Constitution gives individuals the right to freedom of speech or press. The right to free speech includes forms of communications such as social media, news outlets, and magazines. Police may not arrest US citizens for exercising this right, even if the individual expresses an opinion that is disfavorable to officers. Indeed, it is illegal for an officer to arrest an individual simply because he does not like what the individual posts on social media or expresses through other means of communication.

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of retaliatory arrest and laid out the requirements an individual must meet to bring such a claim. In that case, Russell Bartlett was arrested by police officers Luis Nieves and Bryce Weight for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Sargent Nieves attempted to talk to Bartlett before he arrested the man, but Bartlett did not talk to Nieves. Later that same day, Bartlett observed Officer Weight talking with a minor and he came over and told Weight that he should not be speaking with the minor. When Bartlett stepped towards Officer Weight, the officer pushed him back. Sargent Nieves saw the confrontation and arrested Bartlett. Bartlett claims that after he was handcuffed, Nieves made a comment about how Bartlett probably wishes he would have talked to Nieves earlier.

In that case, the Supreme Court held the arrest was not retaliatory because the officers had probable cause to arrest Bartlett. Probable cause defeats a retaliatory arrest claim. However, the Supreme Court laid out exactly what an individual needs in order to prevail on a retaliatory arrest claim. An individual must show: 1. The official acted with a retaliatory motive; 2. The individual was injured; 3. The motive was the “but-for” cause of the injury. In cases where a prosecutor rather than a police officer brings retaliatory charges against an individual, the individual must show the decision to press charges was objectively unreasonable because it was not supported by probable cause.

For retaliatory arrest claims, it is not enough to show that an official acted with a retaliatory motive and that the individual was injured. The motive must cause the injury- meaning that if the officer had a lawful reason to arrest the individual, then there can be no claim for retaliatory arrest because the officer’s actions would have occurred regardless of his retaliatory motives.

The First Amendment right to freedom of speech protects individuals from facing unlawful arrests that may result from their exercise of this right. You do not have to be criminally charged in order to bring a retaliatory conviction claim; a claim may be brought after any unlawful arrest that may have been conducted for retaliatory reasons.

If you or a loved one has been arrested and the arrest would not have occurred absent your protected speech, then you may be the victim of a retaliatory arrest. You need an experienced criminal law attorney to ensure your rights are protected. Call the Law Office of John Freeman today.