A developing situation out of Connecticut showcases just how important it is to know your rights, and just how willing police are to push you around to get their way and make their jobs easier.
Just like in the state of Maine, sobriety checkpoints are legal in the state of Connecticut. However, just because the state of Connecticut has decided that the state’s Fourth Amendment equivalent does not protect its citizens from the searches and seizures that a checkpoint entails does not mean everyone in the state is onboard. One particular person, Michael Picard, has taken it upon himself to protect sobriety checkpoints as often as possible. He’s convinced that the checkpoints not only violate the Fourth Amendment but also are a waste of police time and public money.
On the night of September 11, 2015, Picard protested a sobriety checkpoint in West Hartford by holding a handmade sign that said, “Cops ahead: Keep calm and remain silent.” Picard also captured video of the checkpoint on his digital camera while legally standing on an island on the side of a highway on-ramp.
After an hour and a half, Picard was approached by two of the officers working the checkpoint. One of them immediately slapped Picard’s camera out of his hand. Unaware that the camera was still recording, the cop confiscated it, claiming that Picard didn’t have the right to videotape police while they were doing their jobs. The cop left the camera on the roof of the cruiser while he and the other police discussed what to do with Picard.
With the camera rolling, the police officers inside the cruiser can be heard discussing what to charge Picard with. They decide to charge him with reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian (Picard was not on the highway) and creating a public disturbance (Picard was standing calmly, holding a sign and recording the checkpoint).
But then the police decide to make up a story to help their case: They decide to claim that there were multiple people who saw Picard violating the law, but that none of those people stayed to give a statement.
Based on the statement of these police officers, Picard was charged on both counts. It took nearly a year for the state to realize what was going on, despite the evidence on the camera, and drop the charges.
It’s a sad fact that some police reach way beyond their bounds to punish people who annoy them. Protesters like Picard have established a reputation as being a thorn in the side for police officers, but Picard’s willingness to speak out and exercise his rights should not make him a target.
This is just one of the many situations where having a rock solid criminal defense attorney on your side can make a huge difference. If you’re facing criminal charges, contact the law office of William T. Bly online or at (207) 571-8146.
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