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
17 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
19 pending 68 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Nov. 21, 2019 (Wisconsin), Nov. 6, 2019 (South Dakota), Oct. 24, 2019 (Kentucky)
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Indiana

SB 471: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Heightens the potential 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 law provides that an individual who knowingly enters a critical infrastructure facility without permission commits critical infrastructure facility trespass, a Level 6 felony punishable by up to 30 months in prison. Under the law, 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 individual found to have conspired with someone who commits either offense may also be liable for a fine of $100,000. The law 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: enacted

Introduced 14 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 7 Feb 2019; Approved by House 25 March 2019; Signed by Governor Holcomb on 6 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, 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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Missouri

HB 355: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The bill--which was substituted by a Missouri Senate committee for a House bill on sentencing guidelines--would heighten the penalties for trespass occuring on critical infrastructure property. Trespass with intent "to damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, [or] tamper with” a facility or intent to “impede or inhibit the operations” of a facility would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Protesters seeking to peacefully demonstrate against construction of a new pipeline, for instance, with the intent to disrupt that construction, could be prosecuted under the bill. The bill would also newly criminalize "damage" to critical infrastructure, broadly defined to include vandalism, and make it a Class C felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The bill would also newly and broadly define "critical infrastructure" to include oil and gas pipelines, refineries, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks—whether operational or under construction. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 18 Apr 2019; Approved by Senate as amended 17 May 2019; Approved by House 17 May 2019; Signed by Governor Parson on 11 July 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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North Dakota

SB 2044: Heightened penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Enhances potential penalties for individuals who protest near existing and planned gas and oil pipelines by criminalizing acts that interrupt or interfere with critical infrastructure facilities. In addition to prohibiting actual tampering with critical infrastructure property and equipment, the law prohibits “interfering, inhibiting, impeding, or preventing the construction or repair” of a critical infrastructure facility. Further, the law 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 critical infrastructure facility, including by interfering with pipeline construction, is a Class C felony under the law, subject to a penalty of five years' imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both. The law 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: enacted

Introduced 3 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 15 Feb 2019; Approved by House 25 March 2019; Signed by Governor Burgum 10 April 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure

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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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South Dakota

SB 189: Expanded civil liability for protesters and protest funders

**Note: According to an October 24, 2019 settlement agreement that resulted from a constitutional challenge to SB189, the state will not enforce many of the provisions of the law that could be applied to peaceful protesters and organizations that support them.**
SB189 created new civil liability for “riot boosters.” South Dakota criminal law defines “riot” broadly such that it can cover some forms of peaceful protest; as originally enacted, SB189 created civil liability for a person or organization that “does not personally participate in any riot but directs, advises, encourages, or solicits other persons participating in the riot to acts of force or violence.” It was unclear what might have constituted “advice” or “encouragement” to carry out an act of force, such that an individual who shouted encouragement on the sidelines of a disruptive protest, or organizations that provided advice about conducting a peaceful but disruptive protest, might have been implicated. Following the October 24, 2019 settlement, the state will not enforce this provision.

Nonetheless, enforceable provisions of the law still establish civil liability for any person or organization that is advised or encouraged by another, and that “makes any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution” in a group of three or more persons. The state or a third party may sue the person or organization for extensive civil damages, including punitive damages. Further, enforceable provisions of the law provide that a person or organization is liable for “riot boosting” if they engage in it personally “or through any employee, agent, or subsidiary.” Accordingly, individuals, organizations, and funders may still be held civilly liable for substantial amounts of money for any involvement in a disruptive protest. Damages recovered by the state shall, according to the law, be deposited in a “riot boosting recovery fund,” which may be used to pay for the state’s response to disruptive protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 4 Mar 2019; Approved by Senate 7 March 2019; Approved by House 7 March 2019; Signed by Governor Noem 27 March 2019

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

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Tennessee

SB 264: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Creates new potential penalties for protests and demonstrations that "interrupt" or "interfere with" a pipeline or pipeline construction site. The law makes it a Class E felony for an individual to knowingly "destroy, injure, interrupt or interfere with" a pipeline, pipeline facility, or related infrastructure, including if it is under construction. The offense is a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $3,000 fine. As introduced, the law provided that an individual or organization that causes or “aids” damage or interference would likewise be guilty of a Class E felony, however these provisions were amended out prior to the law's passage. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 29 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 18 Feb 2019; Approved by House 30 April 2019; Signed by Governor Lee 10 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Texas

HB 3557: New criminal and civil penalties for protests around critical infrastructure

Creates new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law provides for four new criminal offenses. One, "impairing or interrupting operation of critical infrastructure facility," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property and intentionally or knowingly "impair[ing] or interrupt[ing] the operation of" the facility. The act is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. This provision could target peaceful protests that, e.g., hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. A second offense, "intent to impair or interrupt critical infrastructure," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property "with the intent to impair or interrupt the operation of the facility." The act is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility, regardless of whether they actually impair or interrupt the facility's operations. The law also creates two new felony offenses for "damage" and "intent to damage" critical infrastructure. Under the law, an association that is found guilty of any of the offenses around critical infrastructure is subject to a $500,000 fine. The law also creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses: A defendant who engages in conduct covered by any of the criminal offenses is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “knowingly compensates" a person for engaging in the conduct. The property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, and exemplary damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Mar 2019; Approved by House 7 May 2019; Approved by Senate 20 May 2019; Signed by Governor Abbott 14 June 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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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: enacted

Introduced 12 Sep 2019; Approved by Assembly 11 October 2019; Approved by Senate 5 November 2019; Signed by Governor Evers on 21 November 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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