One of the utmost freedoms we enjoy as Americans, the right to peaceful assembly and protest is outlined in the first amendment. Sometimes, however, in moments of national civil unrest, even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent.
Being present at a protest that turned into a riot isn’t a crime, per se—the prosecutor will have to prove intent. If you’re wondering, “Can I go to jail for rioting?” read on to understand how riot laws can impact the outcome of your case. For more individualized help, reach out to a Dallas criminal defense lawyer.
When people think of a riot, they tend to imagine scenes of violence and destruction, or angry mobs filling entire city blocks. In reality, the legal definition of a riot may not fit your mental image.
In Texas, a violent gathering must meet three basic requirements in order to be legally considered a riot:
To that end, we can understand how the legal definition of a riot contrasts with peaceful protestors exercising their first amendment rights. There has to be an element of damage to people or property. Also, the nature of the riot must disrupt government officials from carrying out their duties.
Another important aspect is the size of the crowd. According to the state of Texas, a riot can have as few as seven people participating to be classified as such.
In Texas, rioting is usually categorized as a Class B misdemeanor. Those convicted of a riot-related offense could face up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Riot charges can also be upgraded depending on the facts of your case. If a higher-grade offense occurs either in the furtherance of the riot or as result of an action that could have been anticipated, a prosecutor could worsen the punishment.
For example, participating in a riot that devolves into a breaking-and-entering situation could mean a longer sentence or steeper fine.
If convicted, however, jail time and fines won’t be your only concerns. Unfortunately, you will carry the stigma of your conviction forever, thereby negatively impacting your future housing, professional, and personal opportunities.
The good news is that riot charges can be fought. A Dallas riot lawyer can help you identify a relevant defense, such as not knowing that a peaceful situation was going to turn violent. At the end of the day, the prosecutor will have to prove your intent to participate in the riot beyond a reasonable doubt—which could be easier said than done.
Riot-related charges are serious indeed, and bring with them the potential for jail time, a fine, and the social stigma of being convicted of a crime. If you’re facing riot charges, the legal team at Chris Lewis & Associates P.C. can help you craft a robust legal defense while working to clear your name.
Why not reach out to an experienced attorney from our firm? Call 214-984-3113 or fill out the digital form below to get started with a no-obligation evaluation.