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Excessive Force & Police Abuse

Local Napa County Citizen Efforts

Cop Block

CopwatchThe national Cop Block website describes itself as "a decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goal of police accountability." You may wish to visit the "Welcome Napa Copblock" page at CopBlock.org where a Napa resident posted a local video of an encounter with Napa police, explaining, "To be very clear there are a lot of "good" officers here in Napa. However it seems that too often we hear of police brutality and police misconduct cases. Therefore and since it was a quiet dark street we decided to stop and record the incident in order to ensure the safety of the citizen and hold the officers accountable for their actions."

Copwatch

CopwatchIn 1990, the original Copwatch group, Berkeley Copwatch, began on Telegraph Avenue as an all-volunteer organization dedicated to monitoring police actions and non-violently asserting rights against the police. Since that time, many Copwatch-type organizations have sprung up across the nation, in various forms. You may wish to visit the websites for Santa Rosa Copwatch, Northbay Copwatch and Redwood Curtain Copwatch, and consider their suggestion to memorize key phrases such as "AM I BEING DETAINED?" and "I DO NOT CONSENT," as well as their suggestion that if you see a police-civilian encounter, stop, observe, and film the incident.

Protected Speech

Filming Police Encounters

Redwood Curtain CopwatchMake No Mistake, Filming the Police is a Dangerous Risk. Although Napa County DUI attorneys and civil rights lawyers believe that filming the police engaged in their public duties is fully legal and constitutionally protected conduct, nevertheless, one who decides to film the police assumes enormous personal risk of harrassment, injury and arrest. Convictions for violating state laws against filming anyone, including the police, without their prior consent have been upheld by some state courts, notably Massachusettes, Illinois and Maryland.

The police are not often pleased to see anyone video taping them. Numerous police agencies and police unions around the country have raised personal privacy objections, as well as claims of interference and public safety objections to such activity. The libertarian think tank CATO Institute states that the police continue to harass those who record police encounters. You may want to view their video, Cops on Camera.

Napa Police CarFor an interesting examination of this debate, listen to National Public Radio's feature pieces: "This is the Police, Put Down Your Camera" (Morning Edition), and "The Rules and Your Rights for Recording Arrests" (Talk of the Nation). From the right, watch former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano's commentary "Who Polices the Police?" on the Fox News Channel. From the left, read the Obama administration's Department of Justice amicus brief in Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dept, where DOJ firmly states that the "First Amendment protects the recording of police officers performing their duties in public."

Arrests and civil rights law suits testing the fortitutde of the First Amendment are increasingly common in Jake's Napa County DUI Lawyer weekly reports of police excess and abuse posted on this very web page directly below, picked from the National Police Misconduct News Feed on Twitter. Note: after five years collecting daily news accounts of police misconduct in DUI and related arrests nationwide, Jake figured he'd made his point and gave up cataloguing to spend more time on his Napa County DUI clients.

Think First. If you decide to engage this risk, then remember that an effective, useful observer typically maintains a safe and objective distance rather than becoming a distracting, escalating or otherwise subjective participant in the incident.

California ACLU Smartphone App

Information to Collect. If you decide to record or film a Napa DUI arrest or any other Napa County citizen-police encounter, then get witness statements with names and numbers. Immediately write down as much detail as you remember, including developments prior to filming. Add the names of police agencies, cop names or descriptions, badge & license plate numbers, date, time, and location. Then, in the next 45 days, search the local Napa County police agency logs (for example Napa County Sheriff, CHP, Napa, American Canyon, St. Helena, Calistoga police departments, etc), and the press and internet, for the arrestee's name and contact information; any offer of film copy, witness statements and other information will likely be met with high praise and gratitude by anyone who believes they were victims of police excess.

Angry Insults Directed at Police

Asserting Your Rights Can Hurt. Just like other conduct perceived by police to challenge their street authority (see discussion above about filming police encounters), any good Napa DUI attorney or civil rights lawyer would caution that hurling insulting speech or making obscene gestures at cops undeniably heightens the risk of excessive police force, injury and arrest.

But there is no doubt that, absent evidence such as incitement, police interference, or assault (in your face behavior), simply directing expletives and obscene hand gestures at law enforcement officers has long been held by courts to be expressions of disapproval toward the police, and therefore, political speech protected by the First Amendment.

But Cursing a Judge: NOT Protected Speech

Knowledgeable Napa County DUI lawyers will tell you, it is clearly established that police officers may not use their authority to punish an individual for exercising his or her First Amendment rights. For a good discussion of expletives aimed at the police, and unconstitutional police retaliation, see, Ford v. Yakima (9th Cir 2013).

See also, Merenda v. Tabor (11th Cir. 2013) for an examination of factors which might justify an arrest. For good discussions of flipping the bird at the police, see, Hackbart v. Pittsburgh (W.D. PA 2009), and UC Davis Law Review, "The Middle Finger and the Law (2008).

Napa County Police Abuse Complaint Forms

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Documented Allegations of Police Excess in DUI, Traffic & Alcohol Arrests

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Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Wine Country resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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