After the protests in Louisville related to the police killing of Breonna Taylor, legislators proposed a new law. The law would make it a crime to taunt police officers in Kentucky. 

Senate Bill 211 recently passed the Senate by a vote of 22 to 11. It is now waiting for the House to take up the measure.

What Does the Proposed Bill State?

According to the Senate’s bill, it would be illegal for anyone to insult, accost, challenge, or taunt a law enforcement officer. The taunts would include derisive or offensive words, gestures, or physical contact that has a direct tendency to provoke a violent response. The bill would also increase penalties for rioting. 

Anyone found guilty of taunting a police officer would face a misdemeanor charge. A guilty verdict could result in fines and up to 90 days in jail.

Democratic Lawmakers Have Strong Objections to the New Law

Some Democratic lawmakers vigorously expressed their opposition to the new law. They allege that the law could be used to target peaceful protestors. 

Several Republican lawmakers voted against the bill because they shared some of the same concerns as their democratic peers. Some lawmakers expressed concerns that sections of the bill would violate residents First Amendment rights. 

The House may amend the bill to gain support from Republicans in the Senate who voted against the bill. Since Republicans hold supermajorities in the House and Senate, the new law will likely pass and go to the Governor for consideration.

Other groups are protesting the new law, including the ACLU of Kentucky. There is strong opposition from many groups. Opponents fear the law will restrict free speech rights and the rights to gather and protest peacefully. 

Protecting Yourself When Interacting with Police Officers

There is a certain fear when you are stopped by a police officer, especially given the number of stories in the news related to police shootings and police brutality. Many citizens in Louisville have still not recovered from the Breonna Taylor shooting or the violence and protests that followed.

Anyone gathering for a peaceful protest should be aware of their legal rights. They should also understand how to handle interactions with police officers. Knowing what to do when approached by an officer can prevent the matter from escalating and becoming dangerous.

Tips for interactions with law enforcement officers include:

  • Do not taunt a police officer by yelling, cursing, or using abusive or offensive language
  • A police officer can stop you if he has probable cause that you engaged in criminal activity or has information about crimes that were committed
  • You are not required to answer questions, but you are required to give the officer your name and address
  • You are also required to provide proof of identity if the officer requests it
  • The officer can pat you down to ensure that you are not carrying a dangerous weapon or illegal firearm
  • Officers are not permitted to conduct searches and seizures without probable cause or a warrant
  • Do not argue or fight with the officer about a search – state you do not consent to the search but do not obstruct the officer
  • Never resist arrest or run – that action could create a dangerous situation and result in additional criminal charges

If you are arrested, do not resist. Exercise your right to remain silent. Do not answer any questions or make a statement to the police.

The only comment you need to make is to tell the police you want to speak with a lawyer. If the officers continue to ask questions, remain silent. 

Allegations of False Arrest and Illegal Searches

If you believe you were falsely arrested or the officers conducted an illegal search, yelling about those facts will not help you. The more you talk, the worse you can make the situation. 

Your lawyer investigates the circumstances surrounding your arrest. If the officers lacked probable cause for your arrest, your lawyer will argue that fact in court. Without probable cause, the judge should release you and drop the charges.

The same situation applies to an illegal search. If the officers performed an illegal search, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress. Any evidence found during the illegal search may be thrown out of court. 

There may be several legal defenses to the charges against you, including violations of your constitutional rights. However, if you argue with the police and become combative, you could make it much more difficult for your lawyer to defend you.

If you encounter police officers, remain calm and respectful. After an arrest, remain silent and ask for a lawyer.