The police will be out in force next month as motorcyclists from around the world – and law enforcement from across the state – cruise into Myrtle Beach for black bike week 2018 and the 2018 spring rally.

And when there are more police around, there is a greater chance that you will have to interact with them, so here’s a piece of advice – be nice.

You don’t have to be nice to the police (more on that later), but remember, cops are people, so treat them the same as anyone else – be polite, respectful, patient, and kind. They are working, after all, and they have a stressful job, especially when huge crowds descend on the area.

Wait – I can say what I want, and it’s protected by the First Amendment, right? Why be kind to the police if you don’t have to?

Because, despite your First Amendment rights, many cops will take you to jail if you are non-cooperative, disrespectful to them, or curse at them.

We call it “contempt of cop.”

Is “Contempt of Cop” A Real Crime in SC?

No. It’s nonsense, and the courts have repeatedly and consistently made this clear.

We call it “contempt of cop” because, in the courtroom, you can be held in “contempt of court” if you are disrespectful to a judge or don’t follow a judge’s order. Some police officers wish they had the same power to force people to respect their authority.

There is no criminal charge for disagreeing, talking back to, being rude to, or cursing at a police officer. Why is there no charge? Because it’s not a crime.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be charged with something if you offend a cop. When they feel you have challenged their authority and they want to punish you, some SC police officers will arrest you on one of these charges:

  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Resisting arrest;
  • Interfering with a police officer; or
  • Breach of peace.

Can they do that? Charge me with a crime for speaking my mind?

The First Amendment and the Fighting Words Exception

The First Amendment guarantees each of us the right to speak our minds – including being disrespectful or rude to a police officer.

There is one exception – in 1942, the Supreme Court articulated the “fighting words doctrine,” which clarifies that the First Amendment protects this kind of offensive speech unless it includes “‘fighting words,’ those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

Police officers know – or should know – this, because it’s part of their training. But some of them also know there’s a good chance that you don’t know your rights, or that you can’t afford to hire an attorney. They are hoping that after being handcuffed and spending a night in a cell, you will just want to pay your fine and go home.

Can I Sue for Wrongful Arrest?

Not if you plead guilty or even just pay a fine. If you think that you have been wrongfully arrested – charged with “contempt of cop” – you need to immediately talk to your SC criminal defense lawyer.

If you are convicted, you don’t have a civil case (with a few exceptions like a claim for excessive force). You will need to get the charges dismissed (without using a pretrial diversion program) or you need to be acquitted at trial.

If there is a finding of probable cause (an arrest warrant signed by a judge or a preliminary hearing where the court found probable cause), you may not have a case – although there are exceptions for when the officer lies or leaves out important information on the warrant application or at the preliminary hearing.

If your case is dismissed or you are acquitted, you still may not have a case – the system is designed to protect the police and the government, and every civil rights case is an uphill battle. Depending on the evidence in your case and how the case ends, we will advise you as to whether you have a civil lawsuit against the police or others once your criminal charges have been resolved.

When are the Myrtle Beach Bike Rallies in 2018?

The Myrtle Beach area hosts two spring bike rallies each year – the Atlantic Beach Black Bike Week or Atlantic Beach Bikefest and the Myrtle Beach Bike Week Spring Rally:

  • Myrtle Beach Bike Week Spring Rally: May 11-20, 2018.
  • Bikefest, also known as Black Bike Week, May 25-28, 2018.

Both rallies will have events, concerts, parties, lots of motorcycles and members of motorcycle clubs, and… lots of law enforcement both uniformed and undercover.

SC Criminal Defense Lawyers in Atlantic Beach, Myrtle Beach, Conway, Columbia, and Charleston

If you are charged with a “contempt of cop” offense in Atlantic Beach this year, your Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer at Coastal Law will work hard to get your case dismissed or to get an acquittal at trial while seeking out and preserving all evidence that you may need to file a civil action.

Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation about your case.

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