Russell Hebets Oct. 24, 2011

All over the country a series of Occupy movements has created a unique set of legal problems in many different jurisdictions at the same time. Here in Denver Hebets & McCallin has committed to represent those charged during the protest for free and is part of a group of 50 lawyers taking cases. In Denver some of the first appearances for defendants begin this week, but the ultimate fate of these cases still has a long time to develop. Around the country in different areas different legal strategies are emerging.

In Cincinnati Occupy protesters are attempting to negotiate with city officials to make their protests legal. A federal judge has ordered the city to stop making arrests while negotiations are finished. This strategy may allow protesters to legally camp in parks despite city ordinances.

The lawyers for New York City’s Occupy Wall Street have decided to pursue a different strategy. Their defense team is threatening to shut down the court system. The strategy here is to take every person arrested to a trial which could ground the criminal justice system to a halt. The lawyers hope that this will force the DA to dismiss many of the charges.

Another legal strategy involves a concept called jury nullification. Jury nullification is contentious, but juries in history have found defendants ‘not guilty’ on several occasions even though there was clear evidence a crime was committed. Jury nullification occurs when the jury members believe that the charged crime was technically committed by the defendant, but they still vote for a not guilty verdict because they believe it to be the just thing to do under the circumstances of the case. In this instance juries may prove unwilling to convict protestors.

With over 1,500 arrests in various Occupy movements and more being added nearly every day the legal developments surrounding these cases will continue. Any person arrested for protesting or any other offense should seek a free consultation with a criminal lawyer such as those offered at Hebets & McCallin.