Feds in Portland Imposing Bond Conditions Prohibiting Protesting

The Federal Docket

July 31, 2020

According to a recent article published by ProPublica, protestors in Portland being arrested and charged with federal misdemeanor crimes are being subjected to conditions of pretrial release that prohibit them from participating in further protests. One order prohibits the defendant from attending “any other protests, rallies, assemblies or public gathering in the state of Oregon.”

The article describes legal documents obtained and reviewed by ProPublica and features the opinions of several legal experts, many of whom believe that these bond conditions are “overly broad and almost certainly a violation of the First Amendment,” which explicitly protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Many of these protestors are being charged with federal misdemeanors based on petty offenses that have occurred on federal property, such as the courthouse. Many have been charged with federal offenses for “failing to obey a lawful order,” disorderly conduct, or minor property damage crimes. Many protestors are now being charged with assault on federal officers with little evidence or on a questionable basis, such as the protestors charged with assault for “shining lasers at officers inside the courthouse.”

It is not quite clear who is drafting these conditions–whether it is the prosecutors, pretrial services, or the magistrate judges. There is some evidence, however, that the conditions are sought by the government, though they are ultimately imposed by the magistrate judge. Some of the orders reviewed by ProPublica, however, featured handwritten conditions prohibiting future protests that were apparently added by the magistrate judge.

There is a difference between “stay away” conditions, which are common, and explicit restrictions on protected First Amendment activities. It remains to be seen whether these conditions will be challenged and upheld.

Click here to read the article from ProPublica.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

Scroll to Top