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What is a Gag Order, and Other Things Inquiring Minds Want to Know


There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo related to a recent gag order that was issued against former president Donald Trump by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in his upcoming Washington, D. C. trial, leading Mr. Trump to cry foul, while others are breathing a sigh of relief. With all the talk about gag orders in general, and Mr. Trump’s case, specifically, readers are looking for answers to questions about gag orders.

Gag Order Q & A

 Q:  What is a gag order, anyway?

A:  In relation to a criminal trial, a gag order is a decree issued by the court as a way to eliminate, or to perhaps just limit that person’s ability to discuss a case.

Q: On whom are gag orders usually imposed?

A:  Usually, defense attorneys are the people who have to deal with gag orders, but because Mr. Trump has such a history of making public comments related to the case and people related to it, both he and his attorneys have been directed to abide by the order.

Q:  Why was a “limited order” issued for Mr. Trump?

A:  Since Donald Trump is running for president currently, the judge felt it was important to allow him to make critical remarks about the sitting President, and other of his political opponents.  However, he is restricted from disparaging court employees, witnesses, prosecutors, and/or their families.  In terms of former Vice-president Mike Pence, who is both a witness in the trial and an opponent in the upcoming presidential election, Mr. Trump has been ordered to stay away from comments involving Mr. Pence’s connection to the election-interference case but is allowed attacks related to Pence’s political/campaign platform.

 Q:  What are the reasons gag orders are usually issued?

A:  In general, there are a couple of reasons a judge may consider issuing a gag order:

1-    a concern that the jury pool being tainted;

2-    apprehension related to witness intimidation.

Judge Chutkan specified that restrictions on Mr. Trump’s speech were necessary in order to preserve the integrity of court proceedings.

Q:  What happens if someone violates a gag order?

A:  Judges generally enforce a gag order through fines, or even time behind bars, when people violate them. In Mr. Trump’s case, Judge Chutkan warned that failure to stick to the requirements of the order could result in a courtroom admonishment, home detention, fines, or a revocation of his pretrial release (jail time).

Q:  What about the right of free speech? Doesn’t a gag order stomp on First Amendment Rights?

A:  Judges must weigh the guarantee of a fair trial, the safety of participants, and confidentiality issues when making determinations related to gag orders. Yes, free speech is a protected right in this country, and it stands next to, but not more important than other rights guaranteed by the constitution. Nonetheless, every gag order must be subject to scrutiny in terms of the First Amendment.

Q:  Can a person appeal a gag order?

A:  Yes, and Mr. Trump has already broadcast his intent to do just that, saying he will take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Questions Answered 

Whether you are concerned about a gag order, or some other aspect of a criminal case, the experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at Lobo Law are here for you.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.


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