San Francisco Public Defender Arrested for Resisting Arrest – Lessons to be Learned

The Arrest of Jami Tillotson

Recently, Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson, who has served the office for 18 years, was by Inspector Brian Stansbury for “resisting arrest.”   Check out the video here.

The catch is that Tillotson was actually asserting her client’s 6th Amendment right to an attorney and 5th Amendment right against self incrimination.   From the online reports, I gather Tillotson was representing her client on misdemeanor charges when Stansbury attempted to question and photograph him and another individual on an unrelated matter.  As his attorney, Tillotson calmly informed Stansbury that they could not photograph or question him. 

In response, Stansbury threatened to arrest Tillotson for resisting arrest.  Because she stood her ground, Stansbury followed through with the threat. 

Your 5th and 6th Amendment Rights

Referring to California’s Penal Code 148(a) (1), a person resists arrest when he or she:

1) willfully resists, delays or obstructs a law enforcement officer;

2) in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office. 

While I don’t practice in California, the 5th and 6th Amendments are protections afforded to every citizen of the United States.  While this Stansbury’s job was to investigate, to lawfully carry out his duties, he was required to work within the confines of the law, including the 5th and 6th Amendments.  In my view, he clearly operated outside of those confines, and he should have known that it was not appropriate. 

Wrongfully Charged With a Crime

In far too many cases that I’ve dealt with, I’ve noticed that law enforcement officers were quick to “charge and clear up later.”  While this is not an indictment against every officer, I’ve dealt with countless cases where it’s clear no charges should have been brought.  What is often missed by law enforcement; however, is the grave injustice that a wrongful charge creates.

It creates an arrest record and imposes the possibility of a wrongful conviction upon the citizen.  It requires the citizen to either spend money on hiring an attorney or spending state and county resources on putting an additional case on public defenders and court appointed counsel.  Least of all, it tramples upon the rights of the people. 

The power entrusted upon law enforcement is a truly great power.  To be able to bring the force of the government upon an individual with potential prosecution is monumental.  I truly hope that this causes law enforcement, not only in San Francisco, but nationwide to take a step back and appreciate exactly what happened here.  And make an effort to learn why it was wrong and how to set goals to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And for Deputy Public Defender Tillotson, I applaud you for your heard work and bravery.  It’s attorneys like you that make me want to be not only a better attorney, but a better person.

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