Cops Arrest Public Defender For Attempting To Do Her Job

from the you-have-too-many-rights,-brother.-let-me-ease-your-burden-by-taking-a-few. dept

Due process? In this “justice” system? It is to LOL.

A San Francisco deputy public defender was handcuffed and arrested at the Hall of Justice after she objected to city police officers questioning her client outside a courtroom…

Here’s the video:


The two responses gathered by SFGate show the divide between those who represent the accused and those who haul inconvenient people away so they can continue their “work” unimpeded.

…an incident that her office called outrageous and police officials defended as appropriate.

The public defender, Jami Tillotson, was charged with the one-size-fits-all-who-give-us-any-lip crime of “resisting arrest.” This charge doesn’t work the way people expect it would, much to their anger, dismay and surprise. One would think that the police would need to be arresting you for a different crime and, after encountering some resistance, add “resisting arrest” to the charges. But no, apparently “resisting arrest” simply means not doing what cops say to do, no matter the legality of the request.

Tillotson was representing her client in a misdemeanor theft case. The police wanted to chat with him about an unrelated case in which he was “a person of interest.” Presumably the photo-taking was part of building a lineup.

Now, the Sixth Amendment only guarantees the right to an attorney during criminal prosecution. But being a “person of interest” presents its own problems, what with it usually leading to questioning centered on gathering incriminating evidence — either against the person being questioned or someone else on the list of suspects.

As an American citizen, you can always refuse to answer questions, especially when you’re not in custody. Easier said than done, though, which is why the option of referring law enforcement to a lawyer is always on the table. Of course, police officers will try to avoid this possiblity, usually by framing the questioning as an innocuous, purely voluntary chat. They get irritated, though, when people realize this and tell them to talk to their lawyer or continually ask if they’re free to go.

So, while Tillotson’s attempt to defend her client from questioning related to a different crime may not have fallen under guaranteed Sixth Amendment protections, her willingness to protect her client from additional police questioning certainly falls within the bounds of what she (and her client) are legally allowed to do in a situation like this (i.e., “Talk to my lawyer.”)

But the police weren’t interested in speaking to a lawyer. They wanted to take pictures and ask questions without the “interference” of someone who knew how the system works. So, they arrested her for resisting arrest — which, as the video shows, she was very clearly NOT DOING BEFORE, AFTER OR DURING THE ARREST.

Tillotson objected to the arrest, but she placed her hands behind her back and allowed police to cuff her. She never struggled or otherwise impeded the officers in their duty — which was [WARNING: circular reasoning ahead] TO ARREST HER FOR RESISTING ARREST.

It’s a mindbending, oxymoronic, ugly display of force, where might = right and anyone standing in the way of an investigation needs to GTFO. With cuffs.

Here’s how Gideon at A Public Defender sums up this incident:

It’s one thing for officers to get their way by removing civilians from the scene who object to their searches and seizures, but it takes quite another level of totalitarianism and disregard for the law to arrest and make absent an officer of the court.

Even the law prof [Is it impossible to get quotes from actual lawyers with “in the trenches” experience? Are there really that few of them?] quoted by SFGate — who believes Tillotson erred by inserting herself between police and their “person of interest” — had this to say about the PD’s actions.

[Hadar Aviram] added, “Regardless of where the constitutional disposition is, the attorney was in no way being violent or resisting arrest or being disruptive in any way. It’s extreme and it’s bad press for (the police). I’m surprised.”

I’m not. Many officers — far too many — simply don’t care what the public thinks of them or their actions. The detective captured here on video is among that number.

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Comments on “Cops Arrest Public Defender For Attempting To Do Her Job”

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106 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I disagree. The rules are very clear here. The police ARE the law (at least in their minds).

but it takes quite another level of totalitarianism and disregard for the law to arrest and make absent an officer of the court

The US is deep inside the totalitarian waters already. It’s just that the high profile people are starting to get targeted.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why is suing them an option?

The case will be settled by the police union or even the police department, which will come out of the city’s budget, which will mean taxpayers have to pay for this. Then, because the city has to pay the lawsuit, they may cut the budget of the public defender’s office, where she works.

There’s no incentive for police not to do things like this since they won’t be held personally accountable.
Oh, they shouldn’t do these things because it’s the right thing to do? That’s a nice dream to have.

Gwiz (profile) says:

I’m having a really hard time wrapping my mind around this one.

Wouldn’t this cop’s reasoning apply anytime a person chooses to be represented by a lawyer when being questioned by police?

Also, what would the cop have done if the man in the video simply turned to the wall or hid his face. They didn’t look like they were in custody at the time. Would he have charged them for resisting too, just because they didn’t want to be photographed?

TruthHurts (profile) says:

In an Ironic turnabout...

What I’d love to see is a Federal Tactical Team do a full on breach and attack against that police department, full riot gear, automatic weapons, the whole bit.

They go in, guns blazing against these criminals, arrest the supposed detectives, while releasing the public defender.

They then report to congress how they took down another terrorist group that was planning an unconstitutional attack within our borders.

If during the shooting a couple of the other dirtbag “cops” criminals go down, oh well.

limbodog (profile) says:

“Here’s how Gideon at A Public Defender sums up this incident:
It’s one thing for officers to get their way by removing civilians from the scene who object to their searches and seizures, but it takes quite another level of totalitarianism and disregard for the law to arrest and make absent an officer of the court. “

No, they’re not so different. In both cases, it’s police abusing their power to get what they’re after. The subject is irrelevant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Confused...

She says in the video that “He’s not represented by us” – doesn’t that mean she’s technically not his lawyer (looks like she’s the other guy’s lawyer who is wearing blue)? Is she just arbitrarily speaking for the guy cuz she assumes he needs to be protected?

I suspect the detective just didn’t think quickly enough, and the first thing that came to mind was “resisting arrest”…what he probably meant to charge her with was impeding a police investigation, or something similar… but he was an idiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fire every officer involved, or suspend them for six months without pay, as well as full revocation of all accrued benefits.

Problem solved. Thne only acceptable way to fight this is to ensure that any abusers are forced out. This is starting to make Gotham’s police force look like the reasonable one, for fuck’s sake!

Quiet Lurcker says:

Re: Re:

Something like this, you have to get a message to the entire system, in terms even the most dimwitted of morons will understand. To borrow a phrase: “I smite thee with the mighty rod, Cluebringer!”

Suspend the idiots who arrested the attorney for six months with no pay, and strip them of all accrued benefits and deny any and all future benefits.

Same for their immediate supervisor.

Any ‘good‘ cops who did nothing to stop this simply get suspended for three months, with no pay.

Fire the top cop.

Whoever was responsible for training the peons gets fired and barred form working in anything approaching to law enforcement (for example, lawyer, probation officer, even private security guard) for life.

The lawyer gets instant and unconditional immunity for any charges arising from the incident.

The person they were ‘interviewing’ gets instant and unconditional immunity for any and all crimes/charges which may arise even indirectly from the ‘interview’.

Quiet Lurcker

Terms and conditions may apply. See your lawyer for details.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

1: These rights fail to apply as soon as you break our license to you.
2: Attempting to find said license shall be deemed evidence of attempting to identify loopholes, and your Constitutionally Protected Civil Rights shall be terminated from that point on.
3: If you are a corporation, neither of the previous restrictions apply.

Steve Swafford (profile) says:

It just keeps getting worse and worse. It really does seem like the law enforcement community is lashing out at anyone standing up for themselves and their rights. Police and other officials have been getting away with this behavior for a hundred years and just hate it that anyone would dare question them. I’ve never seen as much police resentment than I have the last year. It’s hard to find anyone I know that trusts law enforcement of any kind now. Sad. They are doing it to themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why did they want his picture?

They wanted to show the pictures to others for an unrelated case apparently. Also without a lawyer present, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out the suspects provided a full confession that was sadly only witnessed by the police present and therefor can’t be questioned by the lawyer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s just account for human nature since this is coming down to an ideological dissonance. People do what they either think is easiest or what is right. They had to have come to some equivalent of these choices.

1)Cooperate with the defender would be an easy option.

2)They believe it would be more work (or impossible) to get the responses they were seeking if they properly questioned the person than the effort of arresting the public defender (removing the obstacle). This is another easy option.

3)They could have also thought they were genuinely right in their actions either believing what they are doing is to protect everyone (or some equivalent of improving the ____ ) which is reinforced by their perceived responsibility as a cop.

4)They thought they are superior (with the caveat that they believe enforcing superiority is acceptable). This makes this a right thing to do (from their perspective) option.

They obviously went with one of the last three options. What we need is to change the weight of the factors they consider to get a change in behavior. Making it more effort/work (this can be anything, paperwork to risk of being fired which is more work to find a new job etc.) for not following correct procedure, to counter the bad thinking that goes into the second option, such that the value of the information will be sufficiently high before they make this choice. Chance of being caught/enforced is also a factor, having strict punishments that are rarely enforced reduces the viewed effort. This still doesn’t help if they believe they were doing the right thing. To change that behavior we have to change their beliefs and is a non-trivial change. Still it is possible to change their culture, but is very unlikely without their cooperation.

In conjunction with a culture change effort (regardless of the initial effectiveness) The most efficient way out of this mess now is to strip the responsibilities and the (afterword) unnecessary power to enforce them. This reduces responsibility for making the right decision, so they can go to one of the easy options. This still leaves us with the problem of what to do with the responsibilities taken from the police. They can be returned back to the public (which sadly many do not want which is exactly why we got into this position), or we these partial responsibilities to another group that counter balances the police. They should be completely separate and no over lapping responsibility. The new group would protect the public from police and only police, while the police would try to protect the public from the members of the public. The trick is to not let the new group protect the public from the police, but some other justification. This leaves out the common ground for the police and the new group to work together making cooperation easier or justifying cooperation as right. ψ(^∇^)ψ

Anonymous Coward says:

The frog is in the pot of water and it is going to the slow boil. If you look around more and more unrest in the civilian populace is showing up. Witness the business over Ferguson, followed by a similar one in NYC.

Since this lack of tracking of civilians murdered by the police and getting away with it, reports are starting to surface every week of the latest victim and what sort of punishment has been doled out to the officers involved.

If nothing else, this combined with the totalitarian actions of the government are going to put this country in marshal law for rioting. No one has forgotten Ferguson and more keeps being thrown on the pile.

I hate to say it but there is a reckoning day coming.

Racer XL says:

Re: Consent

It’s hard though to see how one can charge one for resisting arrest when they’re consenting to arrest.

This, of course, ignores that the notion of resisting arrest being the only charge… is already sort of Kafkaesque. If she were first charged w/ interference or obstruction or something similar and then actually resisted, then the charge might make sense. As it stands it seems the only charge she’s actually guilty of is “contempt of cop” which some cops seem to believe is a felony, but it can’t actually be found in the criminal code AFAIK.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Consent

It’s hard though to see how one can charge one for resisting arrest when they’re consenting to arrest.

Whether the stated charge ultimately holds up or not is entirely irrelevant to whether the seizure was reasonable.

The pertinent question would be whether the consent was coerced.

DogBreath says:

Re: Consent

I think you forgot to put in the /s mark at the end of your post.

That “please do” is unequivocal consent to arrest.

Thereby totally nullifying the “resisting arrest” charge in the first place.

You can’t “consent to arrest” for “resisting arrest” when you never “resisted arrest” in the first place. If she said anything else, then the “Officer” (who will soon be walking a street beat, if he is lucky) might have had a leg to stand on in court. As it stands now, he doesn’t even have a pot to piss in.

It’s not unreasonable to arrest someone who consents to being arrested.

But it is false arrest to arrest someone who clearly did not do the thing they are being arrested for.

Sounds like the cop was trying to get the lawyer to say something else so he could make his bogus charge stick, but in the end, he is the one who will be sitting on that stick…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Consent

The inherently adversarial nature of the act of arrest probably makes it something to which you could not consent, and I have a feeling that her “please do” statement may have had no small amount of sarcasm behind it. That said, I wish the attorney had taken another tack. At the point the officer stated his intention, she could have informed him that she was making a citizens arrest; the detective issued a terroristic threat with the intent to unlawfully detain a private citizen and deny her client the right to remain silent. The cop should lose qualified immunity because the qualifier is acting responsibly and in good faith to perform your duty—not knowingly running roughshod over the rights of others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Consent

It’s hard to resist arrest for no crime committed.

The officer’s subjective motivation for the arrest is immaterial to the objective reasonableness of the arrest. Further, the title of the statute does not control the substantive elements of the offense.

As Ms Tillotsen is an attorney, she shouldn’t mislead the officer by voluntarily affirming that there exists probable cause for her arrest.

In any case, Ms Tillotsen is presumably competent to waive a probable cause argument. Ms Tillotsen may even elect to plead guilty.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Consent

That wasn’t affirming probable cause for her own arrest at all. You are really reaching here.

Anyone with half a brain realizes from her tone and attitude that there was an unspoken thought at the end of that sentence, as in:

Please do…(so I can show you how completely wrong you are in open court).

She probably refrained from finishing that sentence because being overly confrontational at that point would have served no useful purpose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Consent

Please do…(so I can show you how completely wrong you are in open court).

You allege that Ms Tillotson invited the officer to handcuff her so that she would have opportunity to complain about his battery against her person.

… would have served no useful purpose.

If she thought the officer was on the verge of a mistake, then perhaps she had no positive duty to stop him by vocalizing the unspeakable.

But she did have a duty to refrain from requesting the officer commit error.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Consent

You allege that Ms Tillotson invited the officer to handcuff her so that she would have opportunity to complain about his battery against her person.

Nope. I surmised that Ms. Tillotson invited the officer to arrest her so she could dispel, in a court of law, his incorrect notion that an attorney interceding between their client and the police is obstruction. I really have no idea if that was her intention or not, I’m just basing it upon her tone and attitude at the time.

If she thought the officer was on the verge of a mistake, then perhaps she had no positive duty to stop him by vocalizing the unspeakable. But she did have a duty to refrain from requesting the officer commit error.

I really haven’t clue as to what you are getting at there. My point was that once the detective decided to arrest her, any further objections were pointless and would be better served when brought up in front of a judge.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Consent

“You allege that Ms Tillotson invited the officer to handcuff her so that she would have opportunity to complain about his battery against her person”

Which is exactly what cops are always telling people they should be doing: don’t argue with the cop, argue with the judge. So now you’re saying that doing what the cops want is some sort of admission that the cops behavior is OK?

Talk about “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

“But she did have a duty to refrain from requesting the officer commit error.”

Oh? Please tell us what law requires this.

Anonymous Coward says:

The chief of police was interviewed by Ronn Owens on KGO this morning. He didn’t sound particularly happy but this was more in line with being embarrassed at his officers being caught rather than admitting that they were in the wrong.

Here are a couple of things that may clarify. The pictures were being taken in relation to a different crime. The interest was because the police had a report that the perpetrators were dressed in clothes like that.

The other point that was being pushed was that the public defender was not their lawyer for that case. This is the part that has me scratching my head. Where exactly does the lawyer’s role end for a public defender? When the judge moves to the next case? When the defendant steps out of the court room? Leaves the building? It seems to me like they are trying to flip the right to a attorney on its head and saying that she didn’t have a right to represent them.

The way that this will probably play out is that Tillotson will sue, the PD will settle and the citizens of San Francisco will be stuck with a bill for bad policing. Said officers will have a “chat” with the chief and all will be back to normal.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You have no cause to arrest me.

If that ever had a chance in hell of working, she might as well have even gone all out:

Officer: Let me see your identification.

Tillotson: [with a small wave of her hand] You don’t need to see his identification.

Officer: We don’t need to see his identification.

Tillotson: These aren’t the droid… uh, person you’re looking for.

Officer: These isn’t the person we’re looking for.

Tillotson: He can go about his business.

Officer: You can go about your business.

Tillotson: Move along.

Officer: Move along… move along.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I think this is more Star Trek than Star Wars, and Tillotson played a perfect Kirk:

Officer: I’m going to arrest you for resisting arrest.

Tillotson: Please do.

Officer: You have agreed to arrest, therefore you are not resisting. So I can arrest you for resisting. But you are not, so I cannot. But you agreed, so I can. Norman, coordinate! beeeeep

Tillotson: Mr. Scott, beam this officer into deep space, highest dispersion.

jackn says:

Re: Re:

Here are a couple of things that may clarify. The pictures were being taken in relation to a different crime. The interest was because the police had a report that the perpetrators were dressed in clothes like that.

Doesn’t matter. The kid should have said, you got a warrant, or, talk to my lawyer.

That brings up another good point, now the cops thinks they can take pictures of us just like we do of them. The nerve.

Retsibsi (profile) says:

I don’t know what the law is in the US but I was always taught that before you could arrest someone for resisting arrest you had to be arrested for something first (I mean other than the charge of “resisting arrest”) and then, only when you resisted arrest on that charge, could you be arrested for resisting arrest.
Later on, even if the original charge was dropped, the charge of resisting arrest could still be pursued as a separate offence.

So, what was she actually arrested for in the first place?

Personanongrata says:

How Very Professional

This is nothing short of petty authoritarianism run amok.

The detective and his two costumed side kicks are cretins.

The actions of these three law enforcement cretins is a glaring public example of why many folks refuse to cooperate with police investigations.

Who in their right mind would want to be treated as chattel by supposed law enforcement professionals whose very existence is completely predicated upon the productive people in our society going to work, earning a living, buying property and then paying taxes on such.

The only visible resistance was that the three law enforcement cretins resisted using their brains.

aldestrawk says:

A charge under California penal code, section 148 is commonly referred to as “resisting arrest”, but it includes more than that:
“Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical
technician…”

If you look at it as a charge of “obstructing a police officer”, then it makes more sense.

However, the truth of that charge depends upon whether she was representing her client at the time. The police are arguing that the posed photography and questioning are related to another criminal investigation and the Public Defender (PD) has not been appointed to represent their client in that context. If that new investigation is ongoing, then how can the police know it is unrelated to the current one? Does the PD have to accept the cop’s word on the matter?

Nerys (profile) says:

I am sorry but you are incorrect regarding the constitution the Supreme court decided in 1976

“at or after the time that judicial proceedings have been initiated against him, whether by formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment” Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 at 398 (1976). “

Judicial Proceedings means “ANY” action by the judiciary which would include the police taking pictures for another case against your will (IE your not free to go)

hearing, indictment, INFORMATION, or arraignment.

emphasis mine.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: "They don't deserve to die"

One of Charles Dickens’ running themes was that if you are a despicable person, the karmatic consequences are not that your business endeavors will run foul and you’ll wind up on the street — that happens to anyone — but that people will celebrate your eventual demise and remember you with only spite.

All police officers either do terrible, despicable things, or they condone such deeds without reprisal. I’m going to save my limited condolences for those who were clearly more innocent, the kids shot by police officers, the young people who were too weird and got jailed due to a questionable search, lying cops and tough-on-crime judges. (88% conviction rate in Alabama.) Not the bullies who willingly participate in this hostility.

Leit says:

Re: Re:

Miranda only applies when being questioned, and the only question these thugs would be interested in is “Ready to bend over for the police state yet?”

Contrary to what TV would have you believe, being read your rights at the arrest is neither necessary nor common. Of course, some cops do it anyway because cops watch TV as well… which is why they think they can get away with acting as though Lethal Weapon was a documentary.

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