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.

31 states have
considered
64 bills
9 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
8 pending 45 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Oct. 29, 2018 (Pennsylvania), Aug. 22, 2018 (Virginia), Jul. 12, 2018 (US Federal)
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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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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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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: pending

Introduced 24 Jan 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: pending

Introduced 25 Apr 2017; Approved by Senate 23 May 2018

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.