Reporters Committee reminds journalists of legal assistance hotline during inaugural events

Press Release | January 18, 2017

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wants to reminds journalists that our legal hotline service is available if they find they need legal assistance during the events surrounding the Presidential Inauguration this week.

The hotline can be reached at 800-336-4243 or hotline@rcfp.org.

Journalists occasionally get swept up in arrests during protests at national political events, and the Reporters Committee will be working to help them get back to gathering the news as quickly as possible.

Reporters are advised that:

  • You should always carry a government-issued ID like a driver’s license or passport; court processing will be slowed significantly without it.
  • If arrested, always let the officer and any booking officer or other official know that you are a reporter, and carry some sort of identification to establish that fact. This will not mean that you will be immediately released, but police have often defended arrests of reporters and photographers by pointing out that the individual did not notify anyone of their status as a journalist.
  • Many misdemeanors in D.C. are handled through a “post-and-forfeiture” system, where the arrestee forfeits money to resolve charges immediately. Regardless of the name, these charges can be disputed in court later, and the payment is not considered a conviction or admission of the crime. Journalists should carry $100 in cash for such payments.
  • Inauguration Day is a holiday for the courts, so an arrest on a more serious charge might lead to detention until Saturday, when the courts reopen for arraignments.
  • Arrests will probably be handled by D.C. Police, but if you are arrested by U.S. Park Police or U.S. Secret Service, you may be held elsewhere and brought to federal court.
  • We cannot guarantee that we can secure representation for reporters, so arrestees who are offered assistance from the public defender’s office or through services provided by groups such as the National Lawyers Guild should use those services if they’re facing an arraignment.
  • If you are trying to find information about another journalist who has been arrested, you can contact the National Lawyers Guild hotline at (866) 796-6444. The NLG will have a volunteer staff of observers at events, protests, courts and police stations where arrests are likely. Their service is primarily meant for protesters and activists, but they will work with anyone arrested while exercising First Amendment rights.