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Know Your Rights – Interacting with Police in Mecklenburg County

Every state has their own set of rules and laws that govern how the police should interact with citizens, and within each state, these laws may differ from county to county. Knowing the rules specific to Mecklenburg County can not only help you safely interact with police in the event of an arrest, but also help you to hold police accountable for any unlawful interaction.

The information below is specific to Mecklenburg County and it is important to know that these rules might differ once you are outside of this county. Every situation is unique in nature, and if you have any questions about a recent interaction with police or a crime you have been charged with, whether it is in Mecklenburg County or a surrounding county, the defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are ready to help. 

Interacting With Police in Public Spaces Loitering

It is against the law to loiter in a public space with the intention of engaging in any drug-related activity. To enforce this, the police are permitted to consider the following and act accordingly:

  1. Repeatedly stopping or attempting to stop people walking by to talk
  2. Repeatedly stopping or attempting to stop passing vehicles
  3. Being known as a drug user, possessor or seller
  4. Trying to flee the police
  5. The location is known as a place where frequent drug deals happen
  6. Being inside a vehicle registered to a known drug user, possessor or seller.
  7. Passing money or objects to someone inside a vehicle registered to a known drug user, possessor or seller.
  8. Repeatedly passing money or objects to passerby’s
Public Parks

Mecklenburg County officers have the right to ask anyone who is violating a city ordinance or North Carolina state law to leave a public park.

Car Stops and Traffic Violations

When you are pulled over, the event should always be recorded by the officer’s Digital Mobile Video Recording equipment that is installed in their squad car. Officers are responsible for checking to make sure this equipment is working prior to their shift. An officer’s video recording equipment is automatically triggered when their emergency lights are turned on, but it is possible for the recording device to be manually turned off. Below is the timeframe that the recording of the event is retained with the county:

  1. Traffic Stop – Warning: retained for 45 days
  2. Traffic Stop – Infraction: retained for 45 days
  3. Traffic Stop – Misdemeanor: retained for 3 years
  4. Traffic Stop – Felony: permanently retained but may be destroyed after 20 years if there has been no litigation involving the incident.
Protests and Picketing Making Sure You Follow Proper Procedure When Organizing a Protest

If you are organizing a protest or picket where you reasonably believe that more than 50 people will attend, you are required to give a notice of intent to the Chief of Police at least 48 hours before the start of the event. Upon receipt of this notice, the Chief of Police will issue an immediate receipt of notice. The organizer of the event will be required to hold onto this receipt of notice and present it to law enforcement when requested.

Where You Can and Cannot Protest

As laid out in the Picketing Ordinances City Code Sections 19-301 – 19-303, you may organize a protest in the following places:

  1. Public sidewalks and any other pedestrian areas that are not used for vehicles
  2. Old City Hall Lawn
  3. CMGC Plaza
  4. Polk Park
  5. Independence Square Park
  6. Arequipa Park
  7. Other City Maintained parks as long as there is no other event happening at the same time

You may not protest in the following places:

  1. Median strips
  2. Residential areas (when it is targeted, meaning you can pass by residential areas but not target a residential area)
  3. Anywhere that blocks vehicular or pedestrian traffic
  4. Anywhere that blocks entry to buildings
Arrests and Enforcement of the Law During Protests

During the event, all picketers and protesters are held to local city ordinances and relevant state statutes, and citations will be given, or arrests will be made by law enforcement, if any of the below are broken by a protestor:

  1. Picketing Ordinances
  2. Obstructing Traffic
  3. Trespassing
  4. Noise Ordinance – a megaphone or sound amplification device may violate the city noise ordinance. However, prior to issuing a citation, a law enforcement office must take a measurement of the noise to ensure you are in violation.
  5. Weapons are only allowed if you have a conceal and carry permit
  6. Distribution of Pamphlets – it is unlawful to place picket signs, pamphlets or other literature on someone’s vehicle without consent and you could potentially be cited for doing this. As for placing literature on public or private property, officers should not charge you with littering, but they do have the right to throw it away.

An arrest without a warrant should only be made with probable cause for:

  1. a felony or misdemeanor that happens in the officer’s presence
  2. a felony that happens outside of the officer’s presence
  3. if a misdemeanor occurs outside of the officer’s presence, the warrantless arrest has to be authorized by state law.

It is important to be aware that a law enforcement official may shut down the protest in the event of a riot, or groups of three or more persons are acting disorderly.

For more resources, please refer to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Directives guide.

We Are Here to Help

While knowing your rights is important, if you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, or had a possible unlawful encounter with an officer, it is important to have the guidance of an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney who can help you through it. The defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are standing by to help guide you through this overwhelming time and fight to defend your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.