Interacting with Authorities

What if the police show up at an event at which people are currently breaking the law but I'm not?


Sometimes the police will arrive at an event or incident at which people are presently breaking a law. Examples might include a crowd making too much noise, damaging public property like mailboxes or lampposts, or underage drinking. Depending on the severity of the law-breaking behavior, and the danger to life and property involved, the police may simply ask citizens to cease breaking the law and disperse, or they may (and can) arrest law-breakers immediately. The position of the police on this topic is that it’s easy to avoid negative interactions with police by following one simple rule: Don’t break the law.

In a large crowd, people tend to feel empowered to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do and tend to follow the group without thinking things through (pulling down lampposts, tipping over police vehicles, taunting police animals). Don’t fall prey to these tendencies. If you aren’t comfortable with the actions in a crowd, leave the area. Your presence is not illegal until the police order you to disburse, but it is contributing to the untoward actions of individuals in the group.

The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be understood as legal advice. For help with any legal problems or concerns, including those similar to the situations described herein, a licensed attorney should be contacted. The contributors to this site do not claim or guarantee that the information provided is or will be accurate, correct, or effective in any particular situation, and should not serve as a substitute for competent legal counsel.