Civil Disobedience Training


Legal Flow Chart


The Legal Process
The legal system's terms and mystique create an impression of complexity and unapproachability. But, with a little study and thought, the legal process can become manageable and less intimidating and isolating.

Throughout the legal process, we have the right of choice. This is very important. When we understand the steps, the choice, and the effects of those choices, then we are in a position to make decisions as to what we want to get involved in, and what we want to avoid. there are many levels of commitment possible; we must individually choose our involvement according to our own situation.

The material below shows the legal process schematically. As mentioned above, there are certain steps involved, and choices that can be made at each of these steps. let us now go through the steps and briefly talk about the choices.

Usually, but not always, immediately prior to arrest a warning will be given by the police to demonstrators, They will saw which law(s) is (are) being broken and will say that anyone remaining will be arrested. The charges may include: disorderly conduct, trespass, resisting arrest, and obstruction of government property.

To stay and be arrested or to leave

You will be taken to transportation vehicles (may be handcuffed, frisked, walked with escort, carried on a stretcher, dragged/carried)

To cooperate and walk or to non-cooperate and go limp so that you have to be carried. Or to flee if left unguarded and unidentified.

Processing and Booking
Placed in a holding area (don't expect meals, phone calls, bathrooms). Sometimes cells have pay phone, so you may want to bring quarters. Photographed. Fingerprinted. Pockets emptied. Strip searched (unlikely but a possibility). Asked for information. You are only required to give name, address, and ID. You don't have to give Social Security number, but many people do anyway since it's easy for this to be found out.

You may be given a summons, Desk appearance Ticket (DAT) that gives you the charges and court date and then released. Or you may be held till you are arraigned be a judge

To be willingly fingerprinted, etc. How much personal information you give. ACT UP usually tries to decide this collectively in advance, particularly so that no one is singled out for being too queer, HIV positive, etc.

Appear before a judge and answer to charges (guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere, mute). You can request that charges be dropped. If you plead guilty it might be for a fine of an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) where there's little or no punishment so long as you don't get busted in a certain time period. Or, schedule another court date/trial.

To answer charges, respect authority, or to get through the process as quickly as possible.

same as above

Note: You don't need a lawyer for this, but it is always helpful to have a legal aid or sympathetic lawyer to guide you through the process. For major actions, plan in advance to have legal aid on site of action and with you through the arrest, etc.


see also: Advantages/Disadvantages to Disclosing Your Status when Arrested __NEW


ACT UP Direct Action Guidelines

History of Mass Nonviolent Action

Nonviolent Response to Personal Violence

Practicing Nonviolence

Nonviolence Training

Affinity Groups and Support

Steps Toward Making a Campaign

Consensus Decision Making

Legal Issues/Risking Arrest

Legal Flow Chart: What Happens in an Arrest and Your Decisions

Legal Terms: What They Mean

Jail Solidarity

see also the following:

The Demonstrator's Manual (crucial)

Marshal Training Manual

Getting Arrested: Why do we do it?