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Baltimore Riots: The Legal Implications

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Recently, the country has been in an uproar over the relationship between police officers and the African American community.  Numerous controversies have occurred around the country where black suspects have died in the custody of police.  For obvious reasons, this has set both communities on edge and has posed a serious public safety issue.  In Baltimore, another suspect died in custody.  This led to outrage which led to violence.


Rioting and looting are nothing new in the history of civilization.  Some people are looking for an excuse to perpetrate violence, but most are frustrated enough with the status quo that they feel they cannot express themselves through any means but violence.  Of course, this means that the court system will have to deal with the suspects that arise from the riots, and it helps to know what you or your loved one may face if they were caught up in the mayhem in Baltimore.


Summary of the Riots

Freddie Gray was a 25 year old African American male with a history of numerous chargbaltimore riot protest for freddie grayes against him, mostly misdemeanors like drug-related and petty crimes.  When Gray saw the police on the night of April 12, 2015, he ran, was caught, and subsequently arrested.  He was put in the back of a police van without seatbelts, which had just become a standard in the Baltimore PD.  When they reached the precinct, Gray was in serious medical distress.  He was transported to the hospital, found to have a 60 percent severing of the spinal cord in his neck, and remained in a coma for several days.  He died on April 19th.
The protests started on April 18th and they were mostly peaceful.  Law enforcement did not report any disturbances.  Some tension occurred on the 23rd, but only two were arrested.  On April 25th, the protests continued and became violent.  It was during this protest that rocks were thrown at police and the bulk of the looting and rioting took place.  Curfews were set, a state of emergency was declared, and the National Guard eventually came into the city to restore peace.  The violence continued until May 3rd with small protests, rioting, and looting occurring nearly every day in pockets across the city.


Charges and Time Served

The rioters were charged with a wide variety of citations.  Over 200 people were arrested, but many were released due to the difficulty of ascertaining which police officer arrested which defendant.  Usually, the law allows suspects to be held only 24 hours without a warrant.  However, the governor extended this to 47 hours in an attempt to allow law enforcement to sort out the suspects and get them charged.  Unfortunately, even this extension was not enough, and many arrested in the riots went free without charges being filed.

Those who were charged faced citations of:


– Malicious destruction
– Theft
– Assault on police officers
– Failure to disperse
– Assault with a deadly weapon
– Rioting


The severity of citation varies by value of what was damaged.  For destruction totaling $200 to $1000, the penalty is a one year misdemeanor and a $2,000 fine or three times the amount of destruction, whichever is greater.  Theft is also charged by severity.  It would depend on how much was stolen to determine the type of penalty.  Assault of a police officer can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the harm to the officer.  This means that jail time and fines are both possible.  Failure to disperse is almost always a misdemeanor charge, meaning a fine less than $1000 and/or less than one year in jail.  Assault with a deadly weapon is usually a felony, with 1 to 20 years in prison as a probable sentence.  Finally, rioting is also usually a felony and carries heavy prison sentences.


In the end, if you are convicted of multiple charges, you’re looking at a few years in prison or a very hefty fine.


Effect of Media and Politics

Politics played a large role in the Baltimore protests.  In the past, officers who have been involved in the death of suspects haven’t been indicted for murder.  This has caused a tremendous uproar across the country, with the African American community essentially attacking all police as racists.  The political ramifications of another failure to indict may have played into the mayor’s decision to impose a curfew and declare a State of Emergency.  It may also have affected how the police involved were treated.


The media blew up the situation to an extent that it may have fanned the flames of violence.  The first protests were peaceful, but as the time went on, the violence increased.  National and international attention was brought to Baltimore by Gray’s death, and this could have influenced how people eventually came to view the incident.  The situation between the police and the African American community is tenuous and a serious problem that needs to be addressed.


If you or a loved one is involved in charges regarding the riots, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side.  The professionals at Blackford & Flohr would be more than happy to help you deal with the ramifications of charges.  Contact us for further information.