Our First Amendment rights to free speech are one of the best things about being a United States citizen. Unfortunately, having the freedom to express our opinions on everything from social issues to politics can also lead to heated debates and disagreements. For some, their way of expressing these opinions can land them in serious hot water with Michigan prosecutors.
How you share your views regarding hot-button topics like politics can lead to your arrest in the East Lansing area. Generally, putting signs up on your property or wearing a campaign tee shirt are well within your rights of expression, but what happens if you egg a car with a political bumper sticker you disagree with? Or, simply take candidate signs out of your neighbor’s yard? Well, you could end up behind bars.
How You Can’t Express Your Political Views in Michigan
As mentioned, discussing your political views is a fundamental right in this great country. Whether you’re doing so over dinner or in the checkout line at the grocery store, proclaiming your opinions is perfectly legal and is a constitutionally protected activity. However, when you cross a line by destroying someone’s private property or physically assaulting someone over their differing views, it’s a crime. And, depending on the nature of your offense, you could be facing more than just community service and a small fine. In situations of assault and battery, you could be in prison for several years or more.
Current Michigan Criminal Cases Involving Expression of Political Views
Currently, Michigan law can jail you for up to 90 days and impose a maximum fine of $500 for simply stealing your neighbor’s campaign sign. That’s right. Removing a political poster from their yard can cost you freedom and money, as well as putting a misdemeanor theft charge on your criminal record. In addition, simply vandalizing one of these yard signs can also bring vandalism charges.
You may have the attitude that it’s a small sacrifice for the cause, but employers don’t take kindly to employees with theft convictions.
The Bottomline of Political Expression is to Only Use Your Words
Expressing your political views in Michigan is perfectly legal so long as you don’t commit a crime while doing so. This means avoiding acts of vandalism, theft, and making terroristic threats against those you disagree with. Your free speech is a precious right, but you cannot levy threats or cause harm to those who disagree with you. However, if you act out in a way that causes injury to their personal property or their person, you could face both criminal arrest and civil suit for damages.
Consequences of a criminal record can include:
- Lost job opportunities
- Difficulty renting housing
- Having to pay restitution to the victim
- Damage to your reputation
As you can see, it’s just not worth it. So if you’re getting angry during a political discussion, walk away and cool off.
Arrested for Expressing Your Political Views in Michigan?
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a crime related to their political expression in Michigan, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Coontz Law, we appreciate how passionate our clients can get about their political beliefs, no matter what side of the aisle they find themselves on. But we also understand that you might have acted impulsively in the heat of the moment and didn’t think destroying a campaign sign or making a threat was a big deal.
Our team of attorneys can defend your mistake and minimize the damage to your future by working to have charges reduced or dropped. We have fought against theft, vandalism, assault, and terrorism charges on behalf of our clients in the Lansing area for many years. Contact us today to set up a consultation!