Philadelphia Criminal Law News

'Robbery' on Protest Sign Gets Occupy Protester Arrested

Everyone's got mixed feelings about the "Occupy" movement. Sometimes you root for them because you agree that the banks are getting too much money and the rest of us are screwed. Other times you just see them as a bunch of spoiled college kids that should spend more time on their resume.

Whatever your leanings are at the moment, it is good to point out how best to protest. This is because David Gorczynski was protesting bank fees with signs saying, "You're being robbed" and "Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob a country," according to The Express-Times.

Unfortunately for Gorczynski, bank employees called the police and he was arrested and charged with robbery and making a terroristic threat, according to Metro Philadelphia. Will the charges stand?

To be convicted of robbery it must be shown that you intended to take the personal property of another by violence or threat of violence. This crime is a specific intent crime, which means that you can't inadvertently do something that a person misunderstands as a threat and be convicted of robbery.

A terroristic threat is defined as communicating a threat to commit a crime with the intent to terrorize, cause the evacuation of a building, or cause serious public inconvenience.

Here, Gorczynski claims that he did not have the intent to take any money but was only protesting the business of banking. If this is the case, then he cannot be convicted of robbery, because he did not have the required intent.

As far as the terroristic threat charge is concerned, Gorczynski did not have the intent to terrorize or cause the evacuation of the building if his statement is true. However, he might be liable for causing a serious public inconvenience, although this still seems like a stretch.

Don't forget that there will also be a First Amendment challenge to any charges also.

Hopefully for David Gorczynski, neither felony charge sticks and further inhibits his ability to support himself in the future. Instead, it should be a wake up to Occupy to make sure that its members have a good idea about where and how to protest.

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