US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL's US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since January 2017 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here. For more information and an analysis of this data, click here.

45 states have
considered
231 bills
36 enacted 52 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Sep. 7, 2021 (Alaska), Sep. 3, 2021 (North Carolina), Sep. 1, 2021 (North Carolina)
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25 entries matching in provided filters in 16 states.
Florida

HB 1/SB 484: Expanded definition of "riot" and new penalties for protesters

Enlarges the legal definition of "riot," a 3rd degree felony, to include any group of three or more individuals whose shared intent to engage in disorderly and violent conduct results in "imminent danger" of property damage or personal injury, or actual damage or injury. Notably, the new definition does not require that the individuals' conduct be disorderly or violent, or that they commit any actual damage or injury. Under the new law, a "riot" consisting of 25 or more people, or one that "endangers the safe movement of a vehicle," is automatically an "aggravated riot," a new 2nd degree felony offense under the law. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 15 years in prison. Under the new law, "inciting" someone to participate in a riot is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by 5 years in prison. The law also creates a new criminal offense of "mob intimidation," defined as a group of three or more people who act with a "common intent" to compel "or attempt to compel" another person to "do or refrain from doing any act," or "assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint" against their will. The offense is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The law creates a new 3rd degree felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone who "willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means" statues, flags, paintings, displays, or other "memorials" and the value of the damage is more than $200. As "deface" is not defined, protesters who apply paint or graffiti to a monument in the course of a peaceful protest could face up to 5 years in prison. The law could encourage violence against protesters, by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant could avoid liability by establishing that the injury, death, or damage they committed "arose from" conduct by someone "acting in furtherance of a riot." Finally, the law creates a new civil right of action against a municipal government that fails to provide "respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or unlawful assembly," making them civilly liable for damages, including personal injury or property damage. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Jan 2021; Approved by House 26 March 2021; Approved by Senate 15 April 2021; Signed by Governor DeSantis 19 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Driver Immunity, Police Response, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

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Florida

SB 1096/HB 1419: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have criminalized the obstruction of traffic during an unpermitted protest or demonstration as a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. The bill also eliminates civil liability for a driver who unintentionally injures or kills a protestor interfering with traffic during an unpermitted protest or demonstration. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Feb 2017; Introduced 7 March 2017 in House; Failed in Senate committee 8 May 2017

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Iowa

SF 342: Heightened penalties for protesters convicted of "riot," "unlawful assembly," or blocking traffic, and immunity for drivers who injure them

Would elevate the penalties for "riot" from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $7,500. Iowa law defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner," at least one of whom uses any unlawful force or violence against another person or causes property damage. The bill would also elevate "unlawful assembly," from a simple to an aggravated misdemeanor. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, any of whom are acting "in a violent manner," and who intend that any of them will commit an offense. Under the bill, it is a serious (rather than simple) misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $1,875 fine, to "obstruct" a sidewalk, street, or "other public way" with the intent to hinder its use by others. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during an unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by 2 years in jail and a $6,250 fine. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during a riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. Under the bill, a driver who injures someone who is participating in a "protest, demonstration, riot, or unlawful assembly," engaging in "disorderly conduct," and blocking traffic, is immune from civil liability as long as the driver was exercising "due care" and the protester did not have a permit to be in the street. The bill would also allow law enforcement who experience a physical or other injury while on duty to pursue civil damages from a person, group, or organization. Finally, the bill creates a new felony offense for "defacing" public property, "including a monument or statue." The offense, a Class D felony, is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $7,500, and mandatory restitution for any property damage. This bill was introduced and passed by the Senate as SF 534, but passed by the House as an amendment to SF 342. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 1 Mar 2021; Approved by Senate 10 March 2021, Approved by House 14 April 2021, Signed by Governor 16 June 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Iowa

HF 251: New penalties for protesters, including those who block roads, and immunity for drivers who injure them

Would create a new felony offense of "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined to include a group of seven or more people that creates an immediate danger of property damage or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs" government functions or services. Joining or remaining part of a "violent or disorderly assembly" is a Class D felony, punishable by at least one and up to five years in prison. If an individual traveled from another state to participate in a "violent or disorderly assembly," it is a Class C felony, punishable by at least two and up to 10 years in prison. The bill provides for the termination of any state or local government employee who is convicted of engaging in a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill raises the penalty for unauthorized obstruction of any street, sidewalk, highway, or other public way, with intent to prevent or hinder its use by others. The bill changes the offense from a minor to a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Under the bill, if the obstruction takes place during an "unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, at least one of whom is acting violently, gathered with intent that at least one of them will commit an infraction. If the obstruction takes place during a "riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Iowa defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner" that "disturb[s]" other people, with any unlawful force by anyone in the group. The bill also creates new penalties for a person who performs any act "related to organizing, scheduling, or otherwise assembling" a group of people, knowing or with reason to know that they will intentionally obstruct a highway. Such a person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. The bill establishes civil immunity for a driver who injures someone participating in an unpermitted protest or demonstration who is blocking a street or highway, as long as the driver was exercising "due care." The bill would create a new felony offense for protesters who "damage," "deface," or otherwise "alter" any public property, including a public monument. "Deface" is not defined, and could include temporary chalk messages. The offense would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 27 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Kentucky

HB 53: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate all liability for drivers who injure or kill a protester who is blocking traffic. The bill creates a new Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, for interfering with traffic on a public road during a protest for which a permit has not been granted. Under the bill, a motorist who injures or kills an individual who is interfering with traffic during such an event cannot be held criminally or civilly liable, unless the action was intentional. The bill, prefiled as BR 305 on October 24, 2017, also prohibits the wearing of face coverings and bearing of weapons near a public protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Jan 2018.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Face Covering

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Mississippi

SB 2374: New penalties for protest organizers and protestors who fail to disperse, interfere with traffic, or "deface" monuments, and a legal shield for drivers who hit people at protests

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly," that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as either a) a group of 10 or more people who refuse to heed a lawful order to disperse; or b) a group of 10 or more people who create an "mmediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, who "obstruct" law enforcement or other government services, and who "disturbs any person in the enjoyment of a legal right." Anyone who participates in, "incites," "organizes, promotes, encourages," "commits any act in furtherance of," or intentionally "aids or abets any person in inciting or participating in" a "violent or disorderly assembly" is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The breadth and vagueness of the offence could cover, for instance, someone on social media whose post is deemed to have "encouraged" a crowd to stay and protest despite law enforcement's order to disperse. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and highways, including up to one year in jail for anyone who "maliciously" obstructs the "free, convenient, and normal use" of a street or highway during a protest that was not authorized by a permit, or a protest that was deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill would shield a driver who unintentionally injured or killed someone while trying to "escape a mob" during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly." If enacted, those provisions would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for hitting and even killing a protester, as long as the injury or death was "unintended." The bill creates a new felony offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for anyone who "defaces" or "vandalizes" a monument during a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill creates another offense, punishable by up to one year in jail, for anyone who "harasses" or "intimidate[s]" another person at a public accommodation during a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill strips unemployment assistance from anyone convicted of the offenses described above; anyone convicted of the above offenses is also barred from holding state or local government employment. The bill would newly allow claims against local government entities and officials for the failure to protect individuals from injury or property damage caused by a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly," if the failure constitutes "gross negligence"; provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. Finally, the bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" and all related offenses described above to the crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute. As a result, an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in or encourage a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 15 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

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Mississippi

HB 83: New penalties for protestors who interfere with traffic and a legal shield for drivers and others who injure or kill protesters

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as conduct by seven or more assembled people that creates an "immediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services." The offense would be punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vagueness of the definition would allow authorities broad discretion to determine what constitutes, for instance, "creat[ing] an immediate danger" of property damage or injury. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and sidewalks, including a felony offense for "interfering with the regular flow of vehicular traffic" during a "violent or disorderly assembly." Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who "obstructs or interferes with" traffic during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly" is not criminally or civilly liable, as long as the driver did not do so "intentionally." The bill strips unemployment assistance from any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a number of protest-related offenses, including "violent or disorderly assembly," and requires that government employees found guilty of violating any of the bill's provisions be fired from their positions. The bill precludes civil lawsuits against the state by anyone convicted of "unlawfully participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience," if the claim arises out of that conduct. Further, the bill creates a new civil right of action against local governments by any "victim" of "violent or unlawful assembly" or other protest-related offenses, if the local government "failed or was grossly negligent" in policing a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly" - provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute, such that an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. Finally, the bill would amend Mississippi's law on "justifiable homicide," creating a new legal justification for anyone who uses deadly force to "necessarily" defend their business "where there is looting, rioting" or other offenses created under the bill, including the defacing of public property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 7 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

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Missouri

SB 66: New penalties for protesters, and shields for those who commit violence against them

Would introduce a raft of new provisions affecting protesters, including civil immunity for drivers who injure protesters and a new affirmative defense for other acts of violence against protesters. The bill provides that a driver who injures someone who was "blocking traffic in a public right-of way while participating in a protest or demonstration" is not liable for damages, if the driver was "exercising due care." The bill would also expand Missouri's "Stand Your Ground" law, allowing a person to use deadly force against someone who is participating in an "unlawful assembly" and who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter private property that is owned or leased by the person. The bill introduces a series of new penalties for conduct associated with some protests: Protesters who block traffic could be charged with a new felony offense (up to 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine) for intentionally walking, standing, sitting, kneeling, laying or placing an object in a manner that "blocks passage by a vehicle on any public street, highway, or interstate highway." The offense would be a Class D felony (7 years and $10,000) if committed "as part of an unlawful assembly." Under the bill, a person who "causes emotional distress to another person while participating in an unlawful assembly," is guilty of second-degree harassment, punishable in most cases as a Class E felony (4 years and $10,000). Under the bill, protesters who vandalized, defaced, or otherwise damaged public monuments or structures on public property could be charged with "institutional vandalism," a Class B felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Finally, the bill would create a new offense of "conspiring with others to cause or produce a riot or unlawful assembly," defined as knowingly providing payment or "other financial incentive" to six or more people to violate the Missouri laws against rioting or unlawful assembly. The new offense would be a Class E felony (4 years and $10,000). (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, Trespass

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Missouri

HB 56: Eliminating civil and criminal liability for drivers who hit protesters

Would shield a driver from civil and criminal liability for injuring someone who was participating in an "unlawful or riotous assemblage," if the driver was fleeing from the "unlawful or riotous assemblage" and "reasonably believed" they were in danger. If enacted, the bill would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for intentionally hitting and even killing a protester, if the driver "reasonably believed" they were in any danger. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot

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Nevada

AB 168: New felony penalties for unlawful protests and protests that block traffic, as well as penalties for protest funders and organizers

Would impose Class E felony penalties for participating in an "assembly to disturb the public peace," an "unlawful assembly," a "rout," or a "riot," if committed by a group of seven or more people. Under current Nevada law, all four offenses are misdemeanors if committed by two or more people. An "unlawful assembly," for instance, is defined as two or more people who meet to do an unlawful act, but disperse without doing it. Under the bill, a group of seven who do so are guilty of a Class E felony, punishable by at least one and up to 4 years in prison. The bill would also increase the penalty for obstructing any road, street, or alley, from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony, if it occurs during an "assembly to disturb the public peace," an "unlawful assembly," a "rout" or a "riot." Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who was unlawfully obstructing a road, street or alley during an "assembly to disturb the public peace," an "unlawful assembly," a "rout" or a "riot," would not be civilly liable if they were exercising "due care." Under the bill, it would also be a Class E felony instead of a gross misdemeanor to vandalize, place graffiti on or otherwise deface property if committed during a "riot." The bill creates a new Class E felony offense for knowingly or intentionally providing "material support" with the intent that the support will be used in or for an "assembly to disturb the public peace," an "unlawful assembly," or a "rout" or "riot." "Material support" is broadly defined to include “any financial, logistical, informational or other support or assistance," such that someone who gives directions to someone in a 3-person "unlawful assembly" could face felony charges.The bill would also expand Nevada's racketeering law, to cover racketeering activity in furtherance of an "assembly to disturb the public peace," an "unlawful assembly," a "rout" or a "riot," resulting in potential new penalties for protest organizers. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 23 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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New Jersey

S 3992: Expanded Definition of 'Riot' and New Penalties for Protesters

Enlarges the legal definition of "riot," a crime of the third degree, to include any group of three or more individuals whose shared intent to engage in disorderly and violent conduct results in "imminent danger" of property damage or personal injury, or actual damage or injury. Notably, the new definition does not require that the individuals' conduct be disorderly or violent, or that they commit any actual damage or injury. Under the new law, a "riot" consisting of 25 or more people, or one that "endangers the safe movement of a vehicle," is automatically an "aggravated riot," a new crime of the second degree under the law. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Under the new law, "inciting" someone to participate in a riot is a crime of the third degree, punishable by 5 years in prison. “Aggravated incitement”, which results if there is property damage over $5,000 is a crime of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law also creates a new criminal offense of "mob intimidation," defined as a group of three or more people who act with a "common intent" to compel "or attempt to compel" another person to "do or refrain from doing any act," or "assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint" against their will. The offense is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment, a fine of $1000, or both. The law creates a new crime of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone who "purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly defaces, injures, or otherwise damages" statues, flags, paintings, displays, or other "memorials" and the value of the damage is more than $200. As "deface" is not defined, protesters who apply paint or graffiti to a monument in the course of a peaceful protest could face up to 5 years in prison. Someone convicted of the crime also must pay restitution of the full cost to repair or replace the monument. Further, the law could encourage violence against protesters, by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant could avoid liability by establishing that the injury, death, or damage they committed "arose from" conduct by someone "acting in furtherance of a riot." Finally, the law creates a new civil right of action against a municipal government that fails to provide "respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or unlawful assembly," making them civilly liable for damages, including personal injury or property damage. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 24 Jun 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Police Response, Riot, Traffic Interference

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North Carolina

HB 330: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person participating in a protest or demonstration, if the person was blocking traffic in a public street or highway and did not have a permit to do so, and if the driver was exercising "due care." Civil liability is still available to the injured party if the driver acted intentionally. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 13 Mar 2017; Approved by House 27 April

Issue(s): Driver Immunity

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North Dakota

HB 1203: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have eliminated the liability of a motorist who causes "injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway," as long as the motorist did so unintentionally. Under the bill, such a motorist would not be liable for any damages nor guilty of an offense. Accordingly, the bill would allow motorists to strike and even kill protesters without liability as long as the collision was negligent or accidental. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Failed in House on 13 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Ohio

HB 784: Excusing use of deadly force against protesters and heightening penalties for road-blocking protests

The bill would create a new civil and criminal defense for anyone who uses force, including deadly force, to escape from a "riot." The bill would excuse a person who "reasonably believes" they are in danger of imminent injury from a riot, from taking "any steps necessary to flee," and would justify their "using or threatening to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to escape." The provision could encourage the use of violence against protesters. The bill would also create steep new penalties for interfering with or blocking traffic during an unpermitted protest. "Hindering or preventing movement" of persons on roads (a minor misdemeanor under current law) would become a third degree felony, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and $10,000, if it occurred during a protest that had not received a permit, or a protest that exceeded its issued permit. The bill would also enable law enforcement officers to sue protesters and any organizational supporters of protests if the officers suffered injury or property damage as a result of a riot. Ohio law defines "riot" to include engaging in "disorderly conduct" (including "recklessly caus[ing] inconvenience [or] annoyance") with four or more persons "to hinder, impede, or obstruct a function of government" - definition broad enough to cover peaceful protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Nov 2020.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, Stand Your Ground

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Oklahoma

HB 1674: Penalties for protesters who block traffic, immunity for drivers who hit protesters, and liability for organizations that work with protesters

Creates new penalties for protesters who obstruct traffic while participating in a "riot," and protects drivers who "unintentionally" hit them. Under the law, a person who participated in a "riot" and "obstructed" the "normal use" of a public street or highway, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a $5,000 fine, and restitution for any property damage that occurs. The law defines "obstruct" to include rendering the street or highway "unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous" for cars' passage, including by "standing" on the street or highway. "Riot" is broadly defined under existing Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." The new law also shields from liability a driver who injures or kills someone while "fleeing from a riot," as long as they did so "unintentionally," were "exercising due care," and held a "reasonable belief" that they needed to flee to protect themselves. Under the law, such a driver cannot be held civilly or criminally liable for the injuries or death they caused. Finally, the law provides that an organization found to have "conspired" with individuals who are found guilty of certain offenses; including "unlawful assembly," "riot," "incitement to riot," refusing to aid in the arrest of a "rioter," and remaining at the scene of a "riot" after being ordered to disperse will be fined ten times the maximum amount of fine authorized for the individual's offense. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 2 Feb 2021; Approved by House 10 March 2021; Approved by Senate 14 April 2021; Signed by Governor Stitt 21 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

SB 560: Immunity for drivers who hit protesters

Would provide civil and criminal immunity to a driver of a vehicle if they injure or kill someone with their vehicle if they are "surrounded by a person or persons engaged in unlawful activity who has blocked the road" and the driver is engaging in "a reasonable effort to escape from unlawful activity." Under this bill, a driver could potentially be immunized from all liability if they hit and kill a peaceful protester who is obstructing a road. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021; Passed Senate 8 March 2021

Issue(s): Driver Immunity

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Oklahoma

HB 1561: Steep penalties for obstructing traffic, and elimination of liability for drivers who hit protesters

Would create new felony penalties for protests that take place on or spill onto streets and highways. Under the bill, a person who "willfully obstructed" the "normal use" of a public street or highway is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The bill defines "obstruct" to include rendering passage on the street or highway "unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous." The bill also shields from liability a driver who injures or kills someone while "fleeing from a riot," as long as they did so "unintentionally" and held a "reasonable belief" that they needed to flee to protect themselves. Such a driver cannot be held civilly or criminally liable. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

HB 2215: Immunity for drivers who hit protesters and an expanded definition of "incitement to riot"

Would shield a driver who unintentionally injured or killed someone while "fleeing from a riot" if the driver had the "reasonable belief" that fleeing was necessary to avoid injury. If enacted, the bill would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for hitting and even killing a protester, as long as the injury or death was "unintended" and they had a "reasonable" fear of injury. The bill also substantially broadens the definition of "incitement to riot," a felony offense. Under the bill, a person who intends to aid or abet a "riot" and who in any way "urges" another to "interfere" with a police officer; "obstruct" the entrance to a private business; or "obstruct" any street or highway would be guilty of "incitement to riot" - felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." The terms "interfere" and "obstruct" are not defined, and as such the offense could include showing support for a peacefully protest that even temporarily pauses traffic. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Rhode Island

HB 5690: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person participating in a protest or demonstration, if the protest or demonstration was blocking traffic and the driver was exercising "due care." Civil liability remains if the driver's actions were intentional. The bill expired with the end of the 2017 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Mar 2017.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Tennessee

HB 513 / SB 843: Heightened penalties for protesters who block sidewalks and streets

Would increase the penalty for knowingly or recklessly obstructing a sidewalk, street, or "or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances." Instead of a Class A misdemeanor, the offense would be a Class E felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a fine of $3,000. The bill would also immunize from prosecution a person who hits a protester with their car, if the protester was obstructing a sidewalk, street, or "or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances," and the driver hit them unintentionally and was "exercising due care." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Tennessee

HB 0668/SB 0944: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have provided civil immunity for a motorist who injures a protester who was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way if the driver was exercising "due care." The bill, introduced in both the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate, does not eliminate liability if the driver"s actions were "willful or wanton." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Feb 2017; Failed in committee 22 March 2017

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Texas

HB 250: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person who was participating in a protest or demonstration that blocked traffic, if the driver was exercising "due care." The driver may still be civilly liable if his action was grossly negligent. Bill 250 expired with the end of the 2017 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 20 Jul 2017.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Utah

SB 138: New penalties for protesters who block traffic and immunity for drivers who injure them

Would institute new felony penalties for anyone found guilty of "riot" who intentionally "obstructed" traffic. The offense would be a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The bill's revised definition of "riot," while somewhat narrower than existing law, would still be broad enough to cover protests by three or more people where no violence or property destruction was committed. The bill provides that anyone charged with "riot" may be denied bail. Under the bill, anyone convicted on felony "riot" charges may not be employed by any state or local government entity for five years after the conviction; they also may not receive any state employment benefits during that time. The bill would also eliminate criminal and civil liability of a driver who unintentionally injured or killed someone near a protest. Under the bill, a driver would not be criminally or civilly liable if he injured or killed someone while "fleeing from a riot," believing that fleeing was necessary to avoid injury and exercising "due care" in doing so. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage reckless driving near protesters and injuries as a result. Finally, the bill waives a local government's immunity from a lawsuit for instances of "grossly negligent conduct" in which an employee failed to protect property or individuals during a "riot" or "violent assembly." If enacted, these provisions could encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 28 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 24 February 2021; Expired with end of session 5 March 2021

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability

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Washington

SB 5456: New penalties for “swarming” a car during a protest, and provision for driver immunity

Would create a new offense, “swarming,” defined as one or more people participating in a protest or demonstration who “knowingly approach, surround, block” or “otherwise unlawfully impede or attempt to impede” the progress of a vehicle on a public street, highway, or parking lot. The offense of “swarming” applies regardless of whether the protest the people were participating in is authorized by a permit or not. It is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine; a subsequent offense is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The bill also provides that a driver who injures someone while trying to avoid or flee from people engaged in “swarming,” “disorderly conduct,” or “criminal mischief” is immune from a civil lawsuit, as long as the injury was unintentional. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Washington

SB 5310: Steep penalties for protesters who block traffic, for protest organizers, and an expansive new "riot" offense

The bill creates a new felony offense that could be levied against protesters who block traffic on a highway. According to the bill, a group of four or more people who make passage on a highway "unreasonably inconvenient" without legal authority to do so, are guilty of "obstructing a highway," a Class C felony punishable by 5 years in prison and $10,000. The bill also provides civil immunity for a driver who injures or kills someone on the highway if the driver was "reasonably attempting" to avoid or "flee" the person. The bill creates a new felony offense of "leading an organized riot," an act sufficiently broadly defined to include organizing or supporting a peaceful protest that is deemed unlawful. Under the bill, "organizing, managing, directing, supervising, or financing" a group of three or more people with the intent "to promote the accomplishment of a pattern of criminal mischief," constitutes "leading an organized riot," a Class C felony. The bill would newly criminalize "riot," using a broad definition that could encompass peaceful protesters. The bill defines "riot" to include knowingly and unlawfully participating in an assembly with seven or more people, with "acts of conduct within that group" that create a "substantial risk" of property damage or personal injury. The offense does not require that an individual personally act in a way that threatens personal injury or property damage. For instance, if an individual joins a very large, spontaneous protest that does not have a permit, and someone "within that group" threatens to damage property, the individual could be charged with "riot." The offense is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Finally, the bill would waive the immunity of any "political subdivision," including counties, cities, and towns, making them civilly liable for property loss or personal injury resulting from any "riot" or "unlawful assembly" if law enforcement have not exercised "reasonable care or diligence" to prevent or "suppress[]" the riot or assembly. In such an event, the bill provides that the subdivision may be further subject to a fine of $10,000 per day, and lose up to one-half of its share of the state's "criminal justice assistance account" for up to one year. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests, in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability

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