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 peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here.

36 states have
considered
106 bills
16 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
20 pending 68 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Nov. 6, 2019 (South Dakota), Oct. 24, 2019 (Kentucky), Oct. 15, 2019 (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin)
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US Federal

DOT Legislative Proposal: New federal criminal penalties for protests near pipelines

In its proposed congressional reauthorization of pipeline safety programs, the Department of Transportation included expanded criminal penalties that could be applied to protests near gas and oil pipelines. The proposal would newly criminalize under federal law "vandalizing, tampering with, impeding the operation of, disrupting the operation of, or inhibiting the operation of" a pipeline or a pipeline construction site. The offense would be punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and/or a steep fine: up to $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for an organization. Any "attempt" or "conspiracy" to commit the offense would likewise be subject to a 20-year prison sentence. Accordingly, individuals as well as organizations that participate in a protest or engage in the planning of a protest deemed to "inhibit" a pipeline construction site could face lengthy prison sentences and/or steep fines. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Jun 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. 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 posted. As introduced, the bill also provided that an organization found to have conspired with an individual to commit any of above offenses would be liable for a fine of at least ten times the minimum fine authorized for the individual, however these provisions were removed by an amendment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 31 Jan 2019; Approved by House 11 April 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Kentucky

BR 204: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Would create new potential criminal and civil penalties for protests around oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. Like HB 238, introduced in the 2019 session, prefiled Bill Request 204 amends the definition of “key infrastructure assets" under Kentucky law to include “natural gas or petroleum pipelines.” Encompassed facilities and properties designated “key infrastructure assets” are not limited to areas that are fenced off or posted by “no entry” signs. Trespass onto "key infrastructure assets" is a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense (up to three months in jail) and a Class A misdemeanor for subsequent offenses (up to one year in jail). The bill creates a new offense for for a person who “intentionally or wantonly... tampers with, impedes, or inhibits operations of a key infrastructure asset.” This conduct would comprise “criminal mischief in the first degree”--a Class D felony, which under Kentucky law can be punished by up to five years in prison. A protest that “impeded” access to a pipeline by blocking a road, or one that “inhibited” the operation of a pipeline by blocking pipeline construction or repair equipment, could presumably fall under this definition. The bill also provides that any "person" (which under Kentucky law could include an organization) may be civilly liable if they "knowingly compensate[] or remunerate[]" another person to commit criminal mischief on a key infrastructure asset. The damages include actual damages to personal or real property “caused by the crime” as well as punitive damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

Status: pending

Introduced 29 Aug 2019; Prefiled on August 29, 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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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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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; Approved by Senate 1 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Pennsylvania

SB 887: New penalties for protests near "critical infrastructure"

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other critical infrastructure by creating a new offense of "critical infrastructure facility trespass.” According to the bill, entering or merely attempting to enter property containing a critical infrastructure facility, without permission of the property owner, would be a third degree felony punishable by up to one year in prison; remaining at the facility after being ordered to leave would be a second degree felony, likewise punishable by up to one year in prison. Entering a critical infrastructure facility with the intent to “damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment or impede or inhibit operations of the facility,” would be a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment for up to one year. It would also be a second degree felony, subject to one year’s imprisonment, to “conspire[] with another person to commit” any of the above offences. An individual who commits any of the offenses a second time would face penalties of the next felony degree. The law newly defines “critical infrastructure facility” under Pennsylvania law to include a broad range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities, such as gas and oil pipelines “buried or above ground.” The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” applies to facilities “constructed or under construction,” and includes “equipment and machinery, regardless of whether stored on location or at a storage yard, to the extent that it is used to construct a critical infrastructure facility.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 Oct 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Wisconsin

AB 426: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other property of "energy providers." The bill expands existing law related to trespass and property damage to broadly include the property of all companies in the oil and gas industry. Under the bill, trespass onto the property of any “company that operates a gas, oil, petroleum, refined petroleum product, renewable fuel, water, or chemical generation, storage, transportation, or delivery system" would be a Class H felony, punishable by six years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Accordingly, protests in a range of locations could be covered, whether on land containing a pipeline or the corporate headquarters of an oil company. Any damage to property of such a company, with the intent to "cause substantial interruption or impairment of any service or good" provided by the company, would likewise be a Class H felony under the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Sep 2019; Approved by Assembly 11 October 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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