Creating a Legal Action Plan?


I was present at the first cycle of arraignments on Tuesday in the Municipal Court and observed much of the process from 9am to about 3:00pm. During this time I was able to talk with some of those people being arraigned. In particular, one veteran protester who has been through this legal process many times suggested that we create a legal action plan so that we are more prepare for the (next?) round of mass arrests.

Legal Action Plan for Arrestees

Precautions before arrest

The Legal Team should be able to assist you even if you do not take the precautions.
  1. Write the number of the NLG lawyer on your body. Police may confiscate your phone, so it is best to
  2. Carry money for bail ($40) or for likely fine amounts ($50-$100), if you can
  3. Complete an Arrestee intake form at the Legal tent

What to do while being arrested

  1. Shout your name to anyone nearby. If there is a Legal Observer, shout to them. If not, shout to other people who can pass your name to the Legal Observers. It is difficult to find you at jails if nobody knows your name.

What to expect after arrest

  1. If you were arrested at the beginning of an action, you may be kept in the paddy wagon for a long time while it waits for the action to finish
  2. You may be taken to one of several different jails. Recently, arrestees have been taken to the West Roxbury or A-1 holding centers.
  3. The Legal Team will start trying to find out where you are by contacting the different jails and asking for you. The jail officials will not confirm whether you are located there unless people ask for you by name, so it is important that you shout your name while being arrested. Once they have confirmed where you are located they will send a lawyer. This is taking place while you are being processing, so you might not be aware of whether they have found you, but they will be trying.
  4. You will be processed (booked). This could take several hours. They may keep you in separate holding cells, or with other people who were arrested.
  5. If it is after-hours when your processing is complete, then you may be offered to leave on bail until your arraignment. "Bail" means that you will be allowed to leave jail until the arraignment, when your charges will be determined. In Boston, you pay $40 to bail bondsmen (usually civil servants who work as bail bondsmen on the side), and the bail bondsman guarantees that you will return for your arraignment. If you have a prior criminal record then they may decline to guarantee you, or they may ask for more money. You do not have to take bail: you can stay in jail until your arraignment if you wish. If the Legal Team has found you, they should be able to provide the money for the bail.
  6. The arraignment should happen during business hours after your processing. People arrested on Sept. 30 (Friday) had their arraignment the next Tuesday. People arrested Oct 12 (Tuesday morning) had their arraignment on that morning. At your arraignment, you charge might be modified. For the arrests on Sept. 30 and Oct. 11, charges for people without prior criminal records were modified to civil penalties (equivalent to a traffic ticket) of between $0 and $100. It is not certain that this practice will continue.
  7. By this point you should be in touch with a lawyer to explain future steps.

Particular concerns

  1. People with families
  2. Transgendered arrestees (See this link for information about risks.)
  3. Undocumented arrestees, or arrestees are risk of having their documentation status challenged

Legal Action Plan for the Legal Team

(I have volunteered as a LO a few times, and it hasn't always been clear who to contact within our team when there is an arrest, who would follow-up at the jails, etc. I'm sure that the regulars know all this, but the volunteers could be more helpful if it were spelled out. Here are some things that might be good to clarify before an action starts.)

Point person during actions

  • Who stays at the Legal tent to receive info/requests from LOs?

Essential LO tasks during actions

  • Get the names of the arrestees
  • Get information identifying the prisoner transport vehicle
  • Ask police where they think the vehicle is going
  • Document the circumstances of arrest
  • Keep track of senior officers that are present, or distinctive units that are involved
  • Keep running log of the time and location of the demonstration as it moves

Tasks following arrests

  • Bail team: Who is the point person for finding the arrestees? When is this team sent? Who goes? A lawyer or any LO?
  • Contacting a lawyer: at what point should we call a lawyer to go to the holding centers? Should we only contact NLG, or should we also contact ACLU? De we have our own list of lawyers if NLG/ACLU is unavailable?

LO tasks following arrest/abuse

  • Who do we send incident response forms to?


**We need a phone number besides NLG. It gets busy and one person cannot handle the volume of calls.