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San Francisco Defense Attorney Arrested in Courthouse

Much ado has been made over the arrest of San Francisco deputy public defender Jami Tillotson at the San Francisco Hall of Justice on January 27th for her alleged obstruction or delaying of SFPD Sergeant Brian Stansbury who was attempting to take photographs of two men in the court hallway.  Ms. Tillotson was arrested for an alleged violation of Section 148 of the California Penal Code.
A careful viewing of the video taken of the incident by another deputy public defender seems to show Ms. Tillotson moving in between one of the two men and Sgt. Stansbury as he attempted to take their photographs.  Before the issue of whether Ms. Tillotson’s conduct thus constituted an obstruction or delaying of Sgt. Stansbury’s lawful duties, several important laws must be considered.
In order for a jury to convict a person arrested for a violation of Section 148 of the Penal Code, 1.) The peace officer must have been lawfully performing or attempting to perform the duties of a peace officer, 2.) The arrestee must have either resisted, obstructed or delayed the peace officer in the performance or attempted performance of those duties, and, 3.) When the defendant arrested person acted knew, or reasonably should have known, that the peace officer was performing or attempting to lawfully perform the duties of a peace officer.
However, a peace officer is not lawfully performing his or her duties if he or she is unlawfully arresting or detaining someone or using unreasonable or excessive force when making or attempting to make an otherwise lawful arrest or detention.
A peace officer may only legally detain someone 1.) If the person consents to the detention, or 2.) If specific facts known or apparent to the officer lead him or her to suspect that the person to be detained has been, is, or is about to be involved in activity relating to crime, and the same facts would have given rise to the same suspicion in the mind of a reasonable peace officer.
It should be carefully noted that any other detention by a peace officer is unlawful, and therefore the evidence would not support a conviction for a violation Section 148.
Some who have viewed the video have come to the conclusion that a little diplomacy on both sides would have served both the two men involved and the interests of justice.  Others have expressed outrage, claiming that no resistance was given by Ms. Tillotson.
The exercise of the duties of the offices of both police officers and public defenders are sometimes difficult and certainly subject to later scrutiny.  However, the power to arrest and place an attorney in handcuffs for attempting to exercise the attorney’s duty to protect a client should be used only in the most extreme and exigent circumstances.  Whether that was the case here will evidently be decided either in the criminal courts of the City & County of San Francisco, or in a civil rights violation case in the Federal Courts, or perhaps both venues.

Here is a link to the article on SFGate.com: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/S-F-police-won-t-press-charges-against-6063816.php