US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL’s US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since November 2016 that restrict the right to protest. For information about our methodology, click here.

35 states have
considered
86 bills
10 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
18 pending 56 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Feb. 20, 2019 (Minnesota), Feb. 16, 2019 (Ohio), Feb. 13, 2019 (Idaho, Illinois)
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Colorado

SB 17-035: Heightened penalties for protesting near oil and gas equipment

Would have substantially increased penalties for environmental protesters. Under the bill, obstructing or tampering with oil and gas equipment is reclassified from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The bill’s language broadly includes anyone who “attempts to alter, obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the action of any equipment used or associated with oil or gas gathering operations.” In addition to imposing much steeper penalties on anyone engaging in such activity, the bill also provides that oil and gas firms (or any other “victim” of tampering) may pursue separate claims against a protester who is also being prosecuted by the state. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 11 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate 28 March 2017; Failed in House committee 12 April 2017

Issue(s): infrastructure

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Georgia

SB 1: Expanding definition of “domestic terrorism”

Would have broadened the definition of “domestic terrorism” under Georgia law to potentially include demonstrations, boycotts, and other forms of protest and political expression. Under the bill, the previously high bar for committing domestic terrorism – harm caused to a group of 10 or more individuals – is lowered to include causing harm to at least one individual or disabling “critical infrastructure.” The new target, “critical infrastructure” is in turn very broadly defined to include “public or private systems, functions or assets, whether physical or virtual, vital to the security, governance, public health and safety, economy, or morale of this state or the United States.” The bill also introduces a new provision targeting actions that have a political or ideological component, such that domestic terrorism would include an action intended to advance “any ideology or belief,” whether held individually or as part of a group. Commission of domestic terrorism as defined by the bill would be a felony punishable by prison sentences ranging from five years to life. Given the broad language of the bill and extreme penalties involved, rights leaders feared that it was aimed to monitor, punish, and chill free speech activities including protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 10 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate 1 March 2017; Failed in House 28 March 2017

Issue(s): infrastructure, terrorism

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Idaho

SB 1090: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would create new potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates two new offenses: “critical infrastructure trespass,” and “impeding critical infrastructure.” Critical infrastructure trespass is defined in the bill as knowingly entering onto infrastructure property without authorization or not leaving once notified to depart; the bill classifies it as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. “Impeding” critical infrastructure is defined to include “preventing legal access to” a critical infrastructure property or construction site. Under the bill, such impediment is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the impediment results in $1,000 worth of damage or economic loss. If the damage or loss is less than $1,000, the offense is punishable by six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The bill also provides that an organization “that aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands, or procures” someone to impede critical infrastructure is subject to a $100,000 fine and liable for a civil action by the infrastructure facility. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks—-as well as "[a]ny facility included [above] that is lawfully permitted and under construction.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Illinois

HB 1633: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that involve trespassing onto infrastructure property. Under the bill, knowingly trespassing to a critical infrastructure facility is a Class 4 felony, punishable by $1,000 and 3 years in prison. Aggravated criminal trespass to a critical infrastructure facility--defined as trespass with intent to vandalize, deface, or tamper with the facility--is a Class 3 felony punishable by $10,000 and 10 years in prison. The bill would also create a broadly-defined new offense, “criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility,” which includes knowingly vandalizing, defacing, or tampering with critical infrastructure and does not require actual damage. The offense is a Class 1 felony, punishable by $100,000 and 15 years in prison. An individual convicted of any of the offenses is also civilly liable for money damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees to the owner of the property, for any damage sustained. An organization found to have conspired with an individual to commit any of the offenses is liable for a fine of at least ten times the minimum fine authorized for the individual. The bill newly defines “critical infrastructure facility” under Illinois law to include a range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or clearly posted. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Indiana

SB 471: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure by creating the offenses of "criminal infrastructure facility trespass" and "critical infrastructure facility mischief." The bill provides that an individuals who knowingly enters critical infrastructure facility without permission commits critical infrastructure facility trespass, a Level 6 felony punishable by up to 30 months in prison. Under the bill, recklessly or knowingly defacing such a facility constitutes critical infrastructure facility mischief, punishable by up to six years in prison as a Level 5 felony. In either case, the individual may additionally be liable to the property owner for damages, costs, and attorney's fees. An organization found to have conspired with an individual who commits either offense may also be liable for a fine of $100,000. The bill newly defines “critical infrastructure facility” under Indiana law to include a range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities, as well as any “facility that is substantially similar” to one of the listed facilities. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 7 Feb 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure

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Louisiana

HB 727: Heightened penalties for protesting near a pipeline

Targets protests around gas and oil pipelines by expanding the definition of “critical infrastructure” and providing for the offense of "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure." Under the law, "critical infrastructure" is amended to include "pipelines," "any site where the construction or improvement of [pipelines or any other listed infrastructure facility] is taking place," as well as "all structures, equipment, or other immovable or movable property located within or upon" such facilities. Unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure property as defined above is punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $1,000. As originally introduced, the law included a new crime of “conspiracy to engage in unauthorized entry” of a critical infrastructure facility, punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $10,000, such that individuals who only planned to hold a peaceful protest on infrastructure property could be prosecuted. The amended and enacted version of the bill removed the provisions on conspiracy, however. In addition, prior to the law’s enactment, provisions were added to mandate that the law would not apply to "[l]awful assembly and peaceful and orderly petition, picketing, or demonstration for the redress of grievances or to express ideas or views regarding legitimate matters of public interest." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 26 Mar 2018; Approved by House 12 April 2018; Approved by the Senate 8 May 2018; Signed into law by Governor Edwards 30 May 2018

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Minnesota

SF 3463: New penalties for "critical infrastructure" protesters and their supporters

Would have created new civil liability for protesters on infrastructure property, as well as vicarious liability for any individual or organization who supported them. The bill would make someone who trespasses on property containing a "critical public service facility, utility, or pipeline" liable for any damages to persons or property, and any person or entity that "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with them" vicariously liable for such damages. Under Minnesota law, a person who trespasses on infrastructure property is guilty of a gross misdemeanor; the bill would make anyone who "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" a trespasser likewise guilty of a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. If the person trespasses "with the intent to significantly disrupt the operation of or the provision of services" by the facility, the bill would make anyone who "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" the trespasser guilty of a felony and subject to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The phrase "significantly disrupt" could be construed to encompass peaceful protests that block access to infrastructure, for instance, which under Minnesota law is broadly defined to include bus stations and bridges. The broad terms used in the vicarious liability provisions could even be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 12 Mar 2018; Approved by Senate 7 May 2018; Approved by House 19 May 2018; Vetoed by Governor Dayton 30 May 2018

Issue(s): damage costs, conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Mississippi

SB 2754: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would create new potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates two new offenses: “critical infrastructure trespass,” and “impeding critical infrastructure.” Critical infrastructure trespass is defined in the bill as knowingly entering onto infrastructure property without authorization or not leaving once notified to depart; the bill classifies it as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. “Impeding” critical infrastructure is defined to include “preventing legal access to” a critical infrastructure property or construction site. Under the bill, such impediment is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the impediment results in $1,000 worth of damage or economic loss. If the damage or loss is less than $1,000, the offense is punishable by six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The bill also provides that an organization “that aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands or procures” someone to impede critical infrastructure is subject to a $100,000 fine and liable for a civil action by the infrastructure facility. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks—-as well as "[a]ny site where the construction or improvement of any [referenced] facility... is ongoing.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 11 Feb 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Missouri

SB 293: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates the offense of "willful critical infrastructure trespass," defined as willfully entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility or the construction site of such a facility, without permission of the property's owner or lawful occupant. Under the bill, willful critical infrastructure trespass is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. A person who willfully trespasses with the intent to "impede or inhibit" the infrastructure facility or construction site is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,000. The bill also provides that an organization found to be a "conspirator" with anyone convicted of the above offenses is liable to a fine of ten times that levied on the individual. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks--"whether under construction or operational." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 24 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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North Dakota

SB 2044: Heightened penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Enhances potential penalties on individuals who protest near existing and planned gas and oil pipelines by criminalizing acts that interrupt or interfere with criminal infrastructure facilities. In addition to prohibiting actual tampering with critical infrastructure property and equipment, the bill prohibits “interfering, inhibiting, impeding, or preventing the construction or repair” of a criminal infrastructure facility. Further, the bill expands the definition of “critical infrastructure facility” to include a “site or location designated or approved for the construction of a facility” such as an oil or gas pipeline. Intentional interruption of a criminal infrastructure facility, including by interfering with pipeline construction, would be a Class C felony under the bill, subject to a penalty of five years' imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both. The bill also creates organizational liability for such acts: An organization found to have “conspired” with an individual who committed the interference could be criminally liable for ten times the fee imposed on the individual, or up to $100,000. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): infrastructure

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Ohio

SB 33: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure by expanding the definitions of "criminal trespass" and "criminal mischief." Like SB 250, introduced in the 2017-2018 session, SB 33 provides that entering and remaining on marked or fenced-off property that contains a "critical infrastructure facility" is criminal trespass and a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Doing so with the purpose of "tampering with" the facility would constitute aggravated trespass, a third degree felony--punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Knowingly, "improperly tampering" with the facility would constitute "criminal mischief," likewise a third degree felony. "Critical infrastructure facility" is expansively defined to encompass oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities among many others. The bill also imposes fines on organizations found guilty of "complicity" in the trespass or mischief offenses, in the amount of ten times the maximum fine that can be imposed on an individual. Ohio law defines "complicity" to include soliciting, procuring, aiding, abetting, or conspiring with another to commit an offense. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Ohio

SB 250: New penalties for protests near "critical infrastructure"

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure by expanding the definitions of "criminal trespass" and "criminal mischief." Entering and remaining on marked or fenced-off property that contains a "critical infrastructure facility" would be criminal trespass under the bill and could be charged as a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Doing so with the purpose of tampering with or harming the facility would constitute aggravated trespass, a third degree felony; knowingly tampering with the facility would constitute "criminal mischief" and a first degree felony--punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine. "Critical infrastructure facility" is expansively defined to encompass oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities among many others. The bill also imposes fines on organizations found to be complicit in the trespass or mischief offenses, and imposes civil liability for damage caused by trespass on a critical infrastructure facility. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Jan 2018; Approved by Senate 6 December 2018

Issue(s): damage costs, infrastructure, trespass

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Oklahoma

HB 1123: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Targets protests around certain public facilities by creating a new criminal offense for trespass onto property containing “critical infrastructure.” The law’s extensive list of “critical infrastructure” facilities ranges from a petroleum refinery to a telephone pole. Willfully entering onto property containing critical infrastructure without permission is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 or six month in jail, or both. Evidence of intent to damage or otherwise harm the operations of the infrastructure facility would make the offence a felony, punishable by at least $10,000 (with no maximum provided) or imprisonment for one year, or both; actual damage or vandalizing of the facility is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Organizations found to have “conspired” with perpetrators are liable for up to $1,000,000. The sponsor of the law told a House of Representatives committee that it was prompted by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Feb 2017; Signed into law 3 May 2017

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Pennsylvania

SB 652: Heightened penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten potential penalties for protests around critical infrastructure such as gas and oil pipelines by providing for the crime of "criminal trespass” onto a critical infrastructure facility. Under the bill, it is a felony to enter a critical infrastructure facility "with the intent to willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment or impede or inhibit the operations of the facility." The bill broadly defines “critical infrastructure facility” to include natural gas facilities and pipelines, "whether constructed or under construction," as well as "equipment and machinery, regardless of location, to the extent that it is used to construct, maintain, or operate a critical infrastructure facility." Other facilities considered critical infrastructure include cell phone towers, telephone poles, and railroad tracks that are fenced off or posted as no-entry areas. Under the bill, entering such an area with the intent to cause damage or disruption is a second-degree felony. An individual who "conspires" to do so commits a first-degree felony.

The bill was substantially amended on 25 September 2018, including to significantly expand the definition of "critical infrastructure facility." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 25 Apr 2017; Approved by Senate 23 May 2018

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Wyoming

HB 10: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates the offense of "critical infrastructure trespass," defined as entering or remaining on a critical infrastructure facility or the construction site of such a facility, while aware or on notice that presence is not authorized. Under the bill, critical infrastructure trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. The bill also creates the offense of “impeding critical infrastructure,” defined as intentionally impeding the operations of or access to an infrastructure facility or facility construction site, or tampering with or damaging facility equipment. A person who impedes critical infrastructure, e.g. by blocking the entrance to a pipeline construction site during a protest, may be charged with a felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and $10,000 if the impediment results in over $1,000 in damage or lost profits. The bill also provides that an organization that "aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands or procures" a person to commit the crime of impeding critical infrastructure is liable to a fine of up to $100,000 and civic damages to the infrastructure facility for lost profits. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, airports, and railroad tracks - or the construction sites thereof. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 14 Dec 2018; House consideration denied 4 February 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Wyoming

SF 0074: New penalties for protests near "critical infrastructure"

Would raise potential penalties for protests near oil pipelines and other facilities by providing for the offense of "critical infrastructure trespass." The offense is defined as entering or remaining on a "critical infrastructure facility" while aware or on notice that presence is not authorized. Under the bill, critical infrastructure trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. If a person trespasses with the intent to impede the facility's operations, or damage, deface, or tamper with facility equipment, the offense is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The bill also provides that an organization that "aids, abets, solicits, encourages, compensates, conspires, commands or procures" a person to commit felonious infrastructure trespass is liable to a fine of up to $1 million. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, railroad tracks, and telephone poles. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 7 Feb 2018; Approved by Senate 27 Feb 2018; Approved by House 10 March 2018; Vetoed by Governor Mead 14 March 2018

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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For more information about the Tracker, contact Elly Page at EPage@icnl.org.