Police Undercover at Merriweather Post

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Phish (photo: Merriweather Post Pavilion)
Phish (photo: Merriweather Post Pavilion)

Seth Okin is a criminal defense attorney with Price Benowitz LLP. He handles traffic, felony, and DUI cases from his Baltimore-area office. He practices across the state, including Howard County.

Apparently, not everyone who attends concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion comes to hear the music. Numerous arrests made during concerts last spring and summer highlight the presence of both uniformed and undercover Howard County police officers at the popular Columbia concert venue, which means that the guy rocking out to the music in the next row may be the band’s biggest fan or could be a plainclothes police officer looking for suspicious behavior.

Last May, Howard County police arrested seven men during a Grateful Dead tribute band concert. The charges included drug possession, trespassing and disorderly conduct.

According to a police department spokeswoman, the trespassing charges often arise when concertgoers engage in rowdy behavior and are asked to leave, but then refuse to vacate the premises in a timely fashion. (Michaels, Andrew, “Seven arrested at Merriweather concert, charged with drugs and trespassing.” Howard County Times, May 20, 2015, online).

Charges of disorderly conduct stem from Section 10-201(c)(2) of the Maryland Criminal Code which states that “A person may not willfully act in a disorderly manner that disturbs the public peace.” (Md. Code Ann. , Crim. Law §10-201) This provision includes behavior such as making too much noise or acting in a manner that others find offensive.

Such a vague definition of prohibited conduct gives the police considerable discretion in determining whether behavior warrants arrest, and this creates a potential for abuse. Often those arrested for disorderly conduct are first-time offenders who may have been involved in nothing more than a loud verbal argument.

Other actions which have led to arrests for disorderly conduct include uttering profanity, fighting, lewd behavior, or even throwing a plastic water bottle.

With police throughout the venue holding a wide license to deem conduct worth of arrest, concert goers need to watch their behavior at all times.

Moreover, the police presence at Merriweather extends beyond the arena itself. During a Phish concert last August, Howard County police arrested 12 men for nitrous oxide possession, paraphernalia possession, and other charges both in the venue and the surrounding parking lots.

Under Section 10-201 of the Maryland Criminal code, those found guilty of disorderly conduct may face penalties of up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00. In addition, a charge of criminal trespass carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00.

A situation can quickly escalate from what could be termed disorderly conduct to criminal trespass, leaving those involved open to charges of both crimes.

Those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of seeing their concert experience end in an arrest are advised to seek counsel from an experienced criminal attorney to keep a moment of indiscretion from turning into a lifelong criminal record.

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  1. Don’t do stupid s*** at concerts. It’s a simple way to avoid jail time and the cost of an attorney. Other than that, WTF is the point of this article? OOOOh, police doing their job…scary

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