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Understanding Gag Orders


After a limited gag order was issued against former president Donald Trump by Judge Chutkan in his upcoming Washington, D. C. trial, there have been a plethora of questions about gag orders in general, and specifically in Trump’s case. Read on to have your questions answered:

Q & A on Gag Orders 

Q:  What, exactly, is a gag order?

A:  A gag order is issued by the court in order to prohibit or limit that person’s ability to discuss a case in part or in full, depending on the order.

Q:  Why are gag orders typically issued?

A:  There are two key reasons for the issuance of a gag order: a fear of the jury pool being tainted, and a fear of witness intimidation. Judge Chutkan stated that the need for restrictions on Trump’s speech were needed to preserve the integrity of the proceedings.

Q:  What are the consequences of violating a gag order?

A:  Typically judges can enforce a gag order by appropriating fines, or even time behind bars, to anyone who violates them. In Trump’s case, the judge warned him that failure to stick to the guidelines of the order could result in a courtroom admonishment, fines, home detention, or a revocation of his pretrial release (jail time).

Q: Who do gag orders generally impact, and is Trump’s order any different than the standard gag order?

A:  In general, defense attorneys are the ones to whom a gag order is directed, but because Mr. Trump is such a prolific speaker, both he and his attorneys have been directed to abide by the order.

Q:  Why was Trump’s gag order a limited order?

A:  Because Donald Trump is currently running for president, the judge will allow him to make critical remarks about the sitting President, any of his political opponents, and even the justice department.  He is not allowed, however, to disparage witnesses, court employees, prosecutors, or their families.  That may be a little tricky when it comes to, say, former Vice-president Mike Pence, who is both an opponent in the upcoming presidential election and a witness in the trial. Trump must avoid comments related to Pence’s connection to the election-interference case, but may attack him related to his political-campaign platform.

Q:  Does a gag order violate the First Amendment’s guarantee to the right of free speech?

A:  Although free speech is a protected right in this country, it is not without limits. Judges must weigh the guarantee of a fair trial, the safety of participants, and confidentiality issues when making determinations related to gag orders.

Q:  Can a gag order be appealed?

A:  Yes, and Mr. Trump has already announced his intention to do just that.

Do You Have Questions About Your Legal Situation? 

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



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