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NLG-SFBA | Activist Support

Arrestee Support

If you were arrested in connection with a Bay Area demonstration please read our FAQs, Secure Form, and Updates.

FAQs

The main purpose of the first court date (arraignment) is to find out whether the District Attorney will file a case against you and what charges will be. The DA decides your official charges, not the cops who arrested you. The DA could decide not to charge you at all, they could give you different charges, or they could ‘not file’ the charges because they haven’t reviewed the police reports.

If they don’t file charges, it doesn’t mean that the case is dismissed; it means that the DA has up to one year to file misdemeanor charges or longer for felony charges. See #6 for what to do if they don’t file. In San Francisco it is rare for the prosecutor to charge a protest later if they did not file charges at the arraignment. It sometimes happens in Alameda county.

If they do file charges, and you are being represented by a National Lawyers Guild attorney, the attorney will most likely continue the arraignment to  a few weeks later. That will give you time to strategize about what to do next.

If you were released on a citation or on your own recognizance (O.R.) this probably will not change at your first appearance. If your were released on bail, the amount will probably stay the same. However, if DA adds new charges or files more serious ones than your arrest charges, the bail amount may change.

Recently due to COVID-19 many face to face court hearings are being cancelled. In Alameda county, the courts are closed through the end of June 2020. During that time all out of custody arraignments will be continued until after the court closure. If your case is rescheduled by the court they should mail a notice to the address you gave during citation or booking. You can also check the court’s website for future updates. Or you can call the public defender’s office and ask if you have a future court date: 510-268-7400.

During the court closure, in custody arraignments in Alameda are being held by video conference from jail.

If there is no lawyer present at your arraignment, you may ask for one before having to answer to the charges. In Alameda, if you are out of custody they will set a new court date for you to come back to court. If you are in custody they will continue the case to the next court day so you may be interviewed by the public defender before the arraignment.

Updated 06/09/2020

The main purpose of the first court date (arraignment) is to find out whether the District Attorney will file a case against you and what charges will be. The DA decides your official charges, not the cops who arrested you. The DA could decide not to charge you at all, they could give you different charges, or they could ‘not file’ the charges because they haven’t reviewed the police reports.

If they don’t file charges, it doesn’t mean that the case is dismissed; it means that the DA has up to one year to file misdemeanor charges or longer for felony charges. See #6 for what to do if they don’t file. In San Francisco it is rare for the prosecutor to charge a protest later if they did not file charges at the arraignment. It sometimes happens in Alameda county.

If they do file charges, and you are being represented by a National Lawyers Guild attorney, the attorney will most likely continue the arraignment to  a few weeks later. That will give you time to strategize about what to do next.

If you were released on a citation or on your own recognizance (O.R.) this probably will not change at your first appearance. If your were released on bail, the amount will probably stay the same. However, if DA adds new charges or files more serious ones than your arrest charges, the bail amount may change.

Recently due to COVID-19 many face to face court hearings are being cancelled. In Alameda county, the courts are closed through the end of June 2020. During that time all out of custody arraignments will be continued until after the court closure. If your case is rescheduled by the court they should mail a notice to the address you gave during citation or booking. You can also check the court’s website for future updates. Or you can call the public defender’s office and ask if you have a future court date: 510-268-7400.

During the court closure, in custody arraignments in Alameda are being held by video conference from jail.

If there is no lawyer present at your arraignment, you may ask for one before having to answer to the charges. In Alameda, if you are out of custody they will set a new court date for you to come back to court. If you are in custody they will continue the case to the next court day so you may be interviewed by the public defender before the arraignment.

Updated 06/09/2020

Remember that the charges the DA decides to bring against you may be different than what the police wrote on your citation. The types of charges we are dealing with can be broken down into four classes:

  • Traffic violations/infractions: These are the lowest level of charges. The maximum penalty for these charges is paying a fine (you can’t go to jail for this level of charge). They are also defended in traffic court, where you have fewer rights. However, our attorneys have a lot of experience in successfully defending people with these charges.
  • Low-level, non-violent misdemeanors: These charges could in theory result in jail time, yet they rarely do. They are also the least likely to be actually charged by the DA and the easiest for our attorneys to handle. Typical low-level misdemeanor charges we have seen include: PC 405 (Riot), 408 (Unlawful Assembly), 409 (Failure to Disperse), 602 (Trespassing), 602.1 (Interfering with a Business), 647(e) (Lodging), 647c (with the c not in parentheses – Obstruction), PC 369i (Blocking Trains), various Vehicle Code sections including 2800 (Disobeying an Officer) and having to do with entering the highway etc.
  • More serious misdemeanors: These charges are serious enough that you will most likely want an individual attorney (as opposed to one attorney appearing for many similar cases at the same time). They could result in up to a year of jail time (although in these situations that is extremely rare). Common charges include: PC 148 (resisting arrest or delaying an officer), 242 or 243 (battery / assault), 594 (vandalism), 415 (disturbing the peace).
  • Felony charges: These are the most serious charges, and they could result in a state prison sentence. You will definitely need your own, individual attorney to handle your case. You will know if you have been charged with a felony, as it makes getting released from custody much more difficult. If you or someone you know has been charged with a felony related to demonstrating, contact us right away!

We are doing our best to find NLG volunteer attorneys to represent folks arrested during Black Lives Matter protests in the Bay Area, at least up to your first appearance date. If you were arrested in a mass arrest situation (i.e. more than 10 people arrested together with the same low-level charges), it’s very likely we will have attorneys able to represent the entire group at your arraignment.

If you were arrested individually, or have more serious charges, we will do our best to find you an NLG attorney who can represent you individually.

In any case, if you want us to represent you, the most important thing to do is to make sure we have all your information! If you haven’t contacted us, or are unsure if we have all your details, please fill out this secure form.

If many people are charged individually or with more serious charges, our volunteer attorneys may not be able to cover all the cases. If that’s the case, you have three options:

  • If you are low income, you may be eligible for a Public Defender or appointed counsel – attorneys paid by the state to defend low income people on criminal charges. The income amount to qualify varies. The PDs in Alameda County and San Francisco are overworked, but good attorneys, and have access to some resources not available to our attorneys. If you want a PD, you request one during your arraignment, at which point they will probably schedule another date.
  • You can hire your own private attorney. The NLG doesn’t provide referrals, so you will have to find one on your own. One issue with some private attorneys is they may sometimes defend their clients by getting other individuals in trouble.
  • You can also defend yourself (pro per). If you want to look into this option, it is strongly recommended that you give us a call so we can have an attorney discuss the implications of this.

Your right to remain silent includes your immigration and citizenship status. You may refuse to answer and questions about your citizenship status or for a social security number.

If you have no legal status in the United States, or if you over stayed a visa, a protest arrest may result in removal proceedings if discovered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They can place a 48 hour hold if they discover you in custody in a local jail. If ICE does not pick you up with the 48 hour period you may be release if you have already paid pail or are otherwise eligible to be release. Most Bay Area counties have a policy of not working with ICE for immigration enforcement in jails.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, a protest arrest may also affect your immigration status. Criminal convictions, sometimes even minor ones, may complicate a petition to change your status. Convictions for crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies may make you removable or inadmissible. It is very important that you have competent legal advice on the potential immigration consequences of any proposed resolution of your case. Contact us and we’ll find someone you can talk to.

For more info on immigrant rights see the National Immigration Law Center.

Updated 06/09/20

In many of the Alameda County cases, the DA has not filed charges by the date set for arraignment because they have not yet received the police report or other info from the cops. Keep in mind that the DA has up to one year to file charges. In many of the San Francisco cases so far, the DA has decided NOT to file charges, but could charge you later if you are arrested again for a similar violation.

  • In Alameda County, if they do decide to file criminal charges against you at a later point, the DA will send you a summons by mail, to the address you gave when cited out or bailed out. However, to make sure you don’t miss this notice, we recommend that you call the Alameda County DA’s number (510-268-7500) in a couple of weeks, and then once a month to find out if they have filed criminal charges against you.
  • In San Francisco, if you have been told you are definitely not being charged, rather than that the case is still under investigation, there is no need to keep calling.)

DO NOT agree to go in and talk to the DA about your case! Doing so won’t help you. You have a Fifth Amendment right not to talk to the DA, police, or their investigators.

If you find out you are being charged, call the NLG Legal Hotline right away to let us know: 415-909-4654, if you would like criminal representation from the NLG. (Keep in mind that we may not be able to find volunteer attorneys for everyone, and that in some cases it may be a good idea to go with the Public Defender.)

Let us know! Do not respond to any of these notices without getting legal advice. There are several different things folks may be getting in the mail:

  • A notice from the DA that prior charges are being filed – this means you will have a court date coming up
  • A notice to pay a fine or set a court date in traffic court – this means your charges have been reduced to an infraction-level charge and that it will be handled by the traffic court. You, or an attorney, will need to schedule a court date.
  • A notice referring your case to “community court”, “neighborhood court”, the “corrective intervention program”, or some other “alternative dispute resolution” – these are DA-run alternatives to the criminal court system. Because you have fewer rights in these programs, we have been advising demo arrestees not to participate.

Until you are arraigned, we won’t know what you are being charged with, or if you will be charged at all. Most cases will probably NOT be prosecuted at all. Once we are sure you are being charged, we can start strategizing about next steps for your legal defense. If you have evidence, make sure it is well-documented and keep it in a safe place until we are sure it will be needed.

Most likely, no. However, if you are arrested multiple times in the same county, the DA may consider that when deciding whether or not to charge you. If you have other restrictions based on prior arrests (probation/parole/stay away orders/fail to appears/warrants/etc) you may be held in jail and have other consequences.

If you are charged with a felony, your personal appearance is generally required at the arraignment. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, a lawyer may be able to appear without your presence at the arraignment. If you want assistance from the NLG, call the hotline to see if an NLG lawyer is available for you arraignment day. The lawyer may be able to appear without you if :

  • You were arrested in a mass arrest situation .
  • You are not charged with a felony.
  • You have contacted us with all your information and told us that you can’t attend your court date

Updated 06/06/20

Many people are asking what can be done about police violence, false arrests and other police misconduct at the demonstrations. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is collecting information about the misconduct by the various police agencies, and considering what legal and/or political action might be effective and feasible regarding civil rights violations.

If you have been subject to or witnessed police misconduct, please fill out an NLG police misconduct report (PDF | DOC), or simply send the NLG your contact information (see below.)  Please do not send videos or photos, but if you have video or photo evidence of police misconduct let us know and give us your contact info. You can send us forms or your contact info by emailing them to demonstrations@nlgsf.org , mailing them to the NLG Demo Committee at 558 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, or dropping them off in a sealed envelope addressed to NLG Demo Committee, in the outside mailbox at 558 Capp St (between 20th and 21st) in SF.

Please note that beginning a civil investigation (either through a lawsuit or through filing an official complaint with the Police Department or the Civilian Complaint Review Board) while people have open criminal cases can be a bad idea. However, it is very important to act quickly to preserve evidence that might be needed in a potential civil lawsuit, and there are strict deadlines for filing civil claims. It is best to discuss the timing, risks and benefits of initiating a civil action, and how to best preserve evidence, with an NLG or other lawyer who specializes in police misconduct and political cases, as soon as possible after the incident. This guide explains how to document your injuries, but is not a substitute for speaking with a lawyer.

Sharing Stories and Video

We encourage people to let the world know about police violence. However, it is important to review any information that is made public to ensure it does not contain details that could be used against people in their criminal cases. Feel free to post any footage or stories of what the police did, but please consider removing any details showing or describing your or others’ actions. The police monitor livestreams, YouTube, social media and political blogs and websites for intelligence that could help them prosecute activists. Even if it doesn’t seem important, careless material you post could get you or other people in trouble.

How to support your friends who have been arrested

The more effective we are the more we risk arrest and other types of oppression. The legal system is designed to break us down and dehumanize us. Having legal support is just one more step toward resisting the criminal “justice” system, the corrupt government it props up, and the corporate rulers who use this system to oppress and silence us all.

  • Requests for a legal hotline, legal observers and on call lawyers, or other demonstrations related legal needs, should be made by filling out the Demonstrations request form here. Please give us as much advance notice as you can!
  • Everyone risking arrest should fill out an arrestee form, which can be found at the end of this handout.
    • Have a legal support person collect the support forms, keep them safe and secure, away from the action. The legal support person should not get arrested.
    • Participants should share as much of their info as they’re comfortable giving – full legal name, arrest history (not just activism related), outstanding warrants, responsibilities they need covered if arrested, emergency contacts, etc.
    • Share relevant medical info: allergies, trick knees, prescription meds, and their doctor’s name and phone #.
  • If your friends are likely to face serious charges that might prevent them from being released, have sources of bail/bond lined up (friends, parents, etc.)
  • Call the legal hotline – 415-909-4NLG (4654) – if the NLG hotline has been activated, or the hotline number that your group has set up for the action – and let them know your friends have been arrested. Give the legal office the info from the support form.
  • Don’t discuss the specific circumstances of your friends’ arrest – you can say what the charges are.
  • Contact the rest of your affinity group and others the arrested folks want informed of the situation. Update those people regularly, even if nothing’s changed.
  • Call the jail to find out where they are in the process. Be polite, but firm (businesslike) with the people at the jail. Don’t talk about the specifics of your friends’ cases.
  • Try to get messages from the outside world to your arrested friends. This is a HUGE morale booster.
  • Take care of logistics for your friends – call their boss, rescue their bike, feed their cat, water their plants, etc.
  • Gather OR information (Own Recognizance) – If your friend is booked and held in San Francisco, there is a special project to help people be released on their own recognizance (meaning without paying bail/bond). To do this, they must ensure that the person is a) not a danger to society and b) likely to show up for their court date. You can help demonstrate that a person is likely to attend their court date by showing that they have strong ties to the community. Collecting references of people who can vouch for their responsibility and character (i.e. bosses, teachers, family members) as well as other strong commitments in the area (mortgages, involvement in community groups, employment). Note: don’t make your friend’s life worse by spilling the beans about their arrest to folks who might make trouble for them (i.e. mean bosses, vindictive parents)
  • If they’re in for a long time, start a call-in or write-in campaign. Call the mayor, the police chief, and other government pawns, or write a letter to the editor denouncing police harassment, misconduct, unlawful arrests, and/or the attempt to oppress and silence people.
  • Go to the jail and be there when your friends get out, and have a ride home for them
  • Have food, water, clean clothes, music, and whatever else you can think of to emotionally support them after their experience
  • Make sure they fill out the online outtake form. Make sure to record their arrest and case information. If they have a citation, photocopy it. Take note of upcoming court dates. Make sure the legal teams gets all this info
  • Help them get to one of the arrestees meetings after the action: (TBD)
  • Remind people about their upcoming court dates by – support them through the court process
  • If they have court dates, organize your friends and fill the courtroom to show support.
San Francisco Info
In most cases, folks arrested while demonstrating in SF are given a citation (like a traffic ticket) and released. This either happens at the site of arrest, a temporary processing station set up by SFPD (like Pier 27 in 2003), or at one of the local police stations. Sometimes people are taken to County Jail 9, where they are booked, and then cited and released. Those with more serious charges (felonies, violent misdemeanors, etc.) are usually booked and held at County Jail 9 until the legal team arranges their release, they are bailed out, or they have their first court appearance. In the past, minors have been taken to the local stations and can only be released to a parent or legal guardian.
San Francisco Police Stations and Detention Centers

County Jail 4 (SF Sheriff’s Department) – main booking
415 7th Street
(415) 553-1430
Enter on 7th.

Prisoner records: 553-9505
SFSD main number: 554-7225
Jail medical staff: 553-9830
Southern Station
(Local Station for South of Market, Embarcadero, China Basin)
850 Bryant St., 1st Floor
(415) 553-1373

Central Station
(Local Station for Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, etc.)
766 Vallejo St.
(415) 315-2400

Northern Station
(Local Station for Western Addition, Pacific Heights, Marina, etc.)
1125 Fillmore Street
(415) 614-3400

Tenderloin Station
301 Eddy St.
(415) 345-7300

County Jail 5 (San Bruno)
(650) 266-7500

San Francisco OR Project
The OR (Own Recognizance) Project assists in trying to obtain early release for individuals who have been booked (generally, people arrested on felony charges), based on their community ties to the area (friends, family, work, etc.) to show that they are likely to show up to their court hearing. More info on OR here
Main number – 552-2202

Other Useful Numbers

SF District Attorney’s Office – 553-1751
SF Public Defender’s Office553-1671
SF Public Defender’s Office (Juvenile Division) – 753-7600
SF Criminal Court Clerk551-0651, 551-0322
SF Police Department Public Affairs Department553-1651
SF Police Department Chief of Police – 553-1551
SF Mayor’s Office – 554-6141

Property Release (in San Francisco)

If you had property taken by SFPD follow the steps below to get your items returned. Although most protest arrests are for minor offenses that often get reduced or dropped, in general, there can be risks of incriminating yourself by claiming property. If the property you are claiming is connected to a serious criminal investigation think twice or consult a lawyer before identifying yourself as the owner.

The Police Department has a legal obligation to care for any property it collects or confiscates whether it was at a demonstration or anywhere else. If your property was lost, damaged, or destroyed by the police you may file a claim against the City and County of San Francisco for compensation. You have six months from the date of the incident to file a claim form to reserve your right to sue the city in small claims or in civil court.

Steps for Property Returned (in San Francisco):

Find your incident report number- If you were given a citation, the incident number appears on the citation usually handwritten near the bottom.
Get a property release from the General Work Division of the SFPD (850 Bryant St. Room 411- (415)553-1141). You will usually need to bring some identification and proof of ownership to have the item returned.
Bring your release form and your identification to the SFPD property room (850 Bryant St. Basement level- (415)553-1377.
If you are told that there is an “Evidence Hold” on your property we recommend that you consult with a lawyer to have the hold lifted.

Alameda County Info
In most cases, folks arrested while demonstrating in SF are given a citation (like a traffic ticket) and released. This either happens at the site of arrest, a temporary processing station set up by SFPD (like Pier 27 in 2003), or at one of the local police stations. Sometimes people are taken to County Jail 9, where they are booked, and then cited and released. Those with more serious charges (felonies, violent misdemeanors, etc.) are usually booked and held at County Jail 9 until the legal team arranges their release, they are bailed out, or they have their first court appearance. In the past, minors have been taken to the local stations and can only be released to a parent or legal guardian.
Alameda County Detention Centers

Glen Dyer Detention Facility

550 6th Street, Oakland
(510) 268-7777

Santa Rita Jail

5325 Broder Blvd, Dublin
(925) 551-6500

Online Inmate Locater

http://www.acgov.org/sheriff_app/ – track your friends in jail!

Other Useful Numbers

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