US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker follows state and federal legislation introduced since January 2017 that restricts the right to peaceful assembly. For more information, visit our Analysis of US Anti-Protest Bills page.

45 states have
considered
289 bills
42 enacted 21 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Apr. 24, 2024 (Tennessee), Apr. 15, 2024 (Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana), Apr. 3, 2024 (Arizona)
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72 entries matching in provided filters in 31 states and 1 federal. Clear all filters
US Federal

S 3887: Heightened penalties for riot offenses

Would significantly increase the penalties for federal “riot” and “incitement to riot” offenses if they involve property damage or injury. The bill would create a new, mandatory one-year prison sentence for anyone who commits “an act of violence” or aids someone else in doing so, while participating in, organizing, “inciting,” “promoting,” or “encouraging” a “riot.” The maximum penalty would jump to 10, instead of 5, years in prison. Federal law defines “act of violence” broadly to include using force against property—or just attempting or threatening to use such force. Under the bill, someone who knocked over a trash can, or merely threatened to do so, while cheering on an unruly protest, could face 10 years in prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Mar 2024.

Issue(s): Riot

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US Federal

S 3492 / HR 6926: Federal penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create federal penalties for protesters who block public roads and highways. The “Safe and Open Streets Act” would make it a federal crime to “in any way or degree, purposely obstruct, delay, or affect commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce by blocking a public road or highway.” The offense would also cover individuals who merely “attempt” or “conspire” to block a public road or highway. The offense would be punishable by an unspecified fine and up to 5 years in federal prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Dec 2023.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Traffic Interference

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Alabama

SB 17 / HB 21: New Penalties for Protests Near Gas and Oil Pipelines

Expands the definition of "critical infrastructure" under Alabama law to include pipelines and mining operations. Individuals are prohibited from unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure, defined as intentionally entering a posted area of critical infrastructure; the offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. The law also expands the definition of "person" to include nonprofits, creating the possibility that nonprofits who provide support or organizing for environmental protests near critical infrastructure where individuals then trespass could face organizational liability. Under the law, if a person interrupts or interferes with the operations of critical infrastructure, they would additionally be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by at least one and up to ten years in prison. The draft law was pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session in September 2021. It is nearly identical to HB 516 introduced in 2021. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 11 Jan 2022; Approved by Senate 1 February 2022; Approved by House 10 February 2022; Signed by Governor Ivey 15 February 2022

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Alabama

SB 152: New controls on protest locations and costs for protest organizers

Allows municipalities in Lauderdale County to control where protesters may gather, and charge them expansive fees for a permit. Under the law, municipalities may prohibit spontaneous protests in public forums by requiring protesters to obtain permits in certain circumstances, including if the demonstration "will involve more than a certain number of individuals participating, as established by the municipality." The law also allows municipalities to charge protester organizers a permit fee that includes "the actual cost of cleanup," "the actual cost of the use of law enforcement officers," and "any other actual administrative cost incurred by the municipality." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 21 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 16 March 2021; Approved by House 13 April 2021; Signed by Governor Ivey 27 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Security Costs

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Alaska

HB 386 / SB 255: New penalties for protesting in the street and other public places without a permit

Would introduce new criminal and civil penalties that could cover protesters who demonstrate in street and other public places without a permit. The bill creates a new offense of “obstruction of free passage in public places,” to apply if someone “knowingly renders a public place impassable or passable only with unreasonable inconvenience or hazard.” While it includes exceptions for “obstruction” authorized by a permit or otherwise authorized by the law or a person “in charge of” the premises, the new offense would clearly cover unpermitted protests—particularly large protests in public plazas, parks, streets or other places that might make it “unreasonably inconvenient” for other individuals or cars to pass. If the protest “substantially interferes” with someone’s access to a government building, or “interferes” with an emergency responder, the offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $25,000. In all other cases it would be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail and $2,000. In addition to criminal penalties, the bill creates expansive civil liability for protesters who block public places. A person “whose passage is obstructed” could sue a protester for $10,000 if their rights were infringed, $50,000 if their property was damaged, and $100,000 if they were personally injured – in addition to attorney’s fees and costs. Under the bill, civil liability extends to anyone who “directly or indirectly, by words or action, aids, encourages, or authorizes the conduct,” or “conspires” to engage in the conduct. It also extends to anyone outside the state of Alaska if they “knew or had reason to know” that their acts were likely to lead to the obstruction. Finally, the bill substantially increases the penalty for trespassing if it creates a substantial risk of physical injury, or “interferes with” an “emergency response.” First degree trespass, which includes entering onto property with intent to violate a law, would be a Class C felony in such cases, punishable by five years in prison and $50,000, rather than a Class A misdemeanor. As such, protesters who for instance enter onto private property to engage in peaceful civil disobedience could face felony penalties.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Traffic Interference, Trespass

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Arizona

HB 2007: Harsh penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

**HB 2007 was signed into law following amendments that removed the most restrictive provisions.** As originally introduced in the House, the bill made it a felony to wear any kind of disguise at a protest. The introduced bill broadly prohibited disguises, "whether partial or complete," that an individual wore at a protest, political event, or any other public event in order "to evade or escape discovery, recognition or identification." Under the introduced bill, police would have had authority to detain any individual wearing a disguise in order to verify his or her identity and determine if the person had committed a crime; violation of the disguise ban would have been a Class 6 felony, subject to one year in prison. The sponsor of the bill said it was inspired by clashes between police and protesters, some of whom were masked, outside a 2017 rally for President Trump. Following widespread criticism, the bill was comprehensively revised to a single provision that would allow courts to consider it an aggravating factor, for sentencing purposes, if an individual wore a mask or other disguise to hide their face while committing a criminal offense. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 21 Nov 2017; Governor Ducey signed it 23 March 2018 but the most problematic provisions were defeated.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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Arkansas

HB 1508: New penalties for protesters who block traffic, "riot", or damage monuments

As enacted, the law increases the penalty for obstructing a "public passage", from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor. As such, an individual in a protest that makes a sidewalk "impassable to pedestrian... traffic" could face up to one year in jail. The law also creates a new mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for "rioting", and requires restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. Rioting is defined in Arkansas to include engaging with two or more persons in "tumultuous" conduct that creates a "substantial risk" of "public alarm." The law requires that a person convicted of inciting a riot likewise pay restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. The law provides that the state Attorney General may initiate an investigation into cases of riot, inciting riot, and obstructing a highway or other public passage. Finally, the law amends the definition of "act of terrorism" under Arkansas law, to include any act that causes "substantial damage" to a public "monument." It is not clear whether graffiti or other painting applied to a monument as part of a protest could comprise a terrorist act under the new law. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 22 Feb 2021; Approved by House 19 April 2021; Approved by Senate 22 April 2021; Signed by Governor Hutchinson 29 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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Arkansas

HB 1321: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Introduces harsh new penalties for protestors around gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The law broadly defines "critical infrastructure" to include a range of posted or fenced-off areas associated with natural gas and crude oil production, storage, and distribution, including above and below ground pipelines as well as pipeline construction sites and equipment. Under the law, purposely entering or remaining on any "critical infrastructure" is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Separately, the law provides that trespassing on property outside of a city or town, regardless of whether it is posted, is a Class D felony if the property is "critical infrastructure." In nearly all other cases, trespass is a misdemeanor or minor violation. The law also creates a felony offense for anyone who purposely and unlawfully "causes damage" to critical infrastructure. Any amount of "damage," which the law does not define is a Class B felony under the law, punishable by 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Under the law, protesters who hold a peaceful sit-in at a pipeline construction site and paint protest slogans on construction material, for instance, could face lengthy prison sentences. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 27 Jan 2021; Approved by House 9 March 2021; Approved by Senate 1 April 2021; Signed by Governor Hutchinson 14 April 2021

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Arkansas

HB 1578: Expanded Civil Liability for Those Who Incite a Riot and Criminal Penalties for Obstructing First Responders

Creates a civil cause of action for a person who is injured or has property damaged as a "direct or indirect" result of a riot against a rioter or a person or entity who incites a riot. Under Arkansas law, both the riot and incitement to riot statute are broad, creating potential liability for protesters or organizations who are interpreted to have urged others to have engaged in tumultuous or violent conduct. The bill also makes it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, to knowingly obstruct or interfere with a first responder in providing medical services, or a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years, if the same is done purposefully. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 17 Feb 2017; Passed by House 2 March 2017; Passed by Senate 27 March 2017; Signed by Governor 6 April 2017.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Police Response, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Florida

HB 1435/SB 1954: Charging protest organizers for the costs of responding to a protest

Would allow local authorities to require protest organizers to pay for "all relevant costs and fees associated with designating and enforcing" the zone established for a "special event," "including, but not limited to, costs and fees for the provision of supplemental law enforcement and sanitation services." While the bill's sponsors indicate that it was motivated by large, disruptive "pop-up" gatherings of cars like the "Daytona Truck Meet," it is written broadly enough to cover street protests and demonstrations. The bill defines a "special event" as an "unpermitted temporary activity or event organized or promoted via a social media platform" which is attended by 50 or more persons and substantially increases or disrupts the normal flow of traffic on a roadway, street, or highway." The bill also authorizes law enforcement to "enforce occupancy limits" in "special event zones"; which if applied to protests could allow police could limit the number of protest participants in a certain area. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 10 Jan 2022; Approved by House 2 March 2022; Approved by Senate 4 March 2022; Approved by Governor DeSantis 26 May 2022

Issue(s): Security Costs

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Florida

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

**Note: Provisions of HB1 related to the law's new definition of "riot" were preliminarily enjoined by a federal district judge on September 9, 2021, temporarily blocking enforcement of those provisions.**


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 may encourage violence against protesters by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant can 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 "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 may 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

HB 275 / SB 340: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create a new felony offenses for trespassing and “improper tampering” that could cover some protests near pipelines and other infrastructure that do not involve actual property damage. The bill broadly defines “critical infrastructure” to include above or belowground pipelines, as well as a range of other gas, electricity, water, mining, and telecommunications facilities. Amendments to both the House and Senate versions of the bill after it was introduced added a 3rd degree felony offense for entering onto critical infrastructure property with notice that such entrace was prohibited. As such, protesters who cause no damage but merely enter onto posted property that contains a pipeline in the course of their protest could face felony charges and up to 5 years in prison if convicted. By contrast, trespassing onto private property is generally a 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable by at most 60 days in jail. The House bill as originally introduced defined “improperly tampering” to include any unauthorized action to “change…the physical condition of the property or any portion thereof,” or to “knowingly and intentionally… deface” critical infrastructure property. As such, the 2nd degree felony offense—which is punishable by 15 years in prison and $10,000—could cover actions as minor as chalking protest messages or taping posters onto a pipeline, or protesters inadvertently trampling a field during a demonstration that is next to and part of a covered facility.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 25 Oct 2023; Approved by House 22 February 2024; Approved by Senate 28 February 2024

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Georgia

SB 339: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

**SB 339 was signed into law following amendments that removed the most restrictive provisions.** As originally introduced, Senate Bill 339 would have created mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The introduced bill required public universities and community colleges to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction individuals involved in "protests or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity" on campus. Additionally, the introduced bill required administrators to suspend for at least one year or expel any student who was twice "found responsible for infringing on the expressive rights of others," such as through a protest of a campus speaker. Amendments to the bill removed the provisions related to specific sanctions, prior to the bill's passage by the Senate. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 19 Jan 2018; Governor Deal signed it 8 May 2018

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Georgia

SB 160: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic

As introduced and passed by the Georgia Senate, the "Back the Badge" bill included heightened penalties for intentionally or recklessly blocking "any highway, street, sidewalk, or other passage." Accordingly, protesters and demonstrators peacefully obstructing a public sidewalk could have been charged with a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which under Georgia law is subject to up to a $5,000 fine or up to one year in jail. These provisions were removed, however, in the version of the bill approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Governor on April 10, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 10 Apr 2017; Approved by Senate 24 Feb 2017; Approved by House 24 March 2017 without traffic-blocking provisions; Signed by Governor Deal 8 May 2017

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Illinois

HB 4746: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Would create a new felony offense that could cover nonviolent protesters at pipeline and other infrastructure sites. Under the bill, someone who knowingly “vandalizes, defaces, tampers with” or damages part of a critical infrastructure facility commits a felony. If the “value of the property” (not the cost of the damage) is less than $500, the offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and up to $20,000; if the property value is $500-$10,000, it is a Class 3 felony (2-5 years and $20,000); and if the property value exceeds $10,000, it is a Class 2 felony (3-7 years and $20,000). The bill newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under Illinois law to include gas and oil pipelines and a range of pipeline-related facilities, as well as electric, water, telecommunications, railroad, and “health care” facilities, regardless of whether they are fenced off or clearly marked with signs. As such, a protester who chalked or spraypainted a pipeline without damaging its functionality could face felony charges and a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. The bill extends liability to anyone who “conspires with” a person to commit the offense. It also provides that critical infrastructure owners can sue for punitive and compensatory damages.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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Illinois

SB 3086: 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 entering or remaining on a "critical infrastructure facility" is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and $25,000. Aggravated criminal trespass to a critical infrastructure facility--defined as trespass with "intent to damage, destroy, or tamper with equipment" in the facility--is a Class 3 felony punishable by 2-5 years and $25,000. The bill newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under Illinois law to include gas and oil pipelines, including those under construction, and a range of pipeline-related facilities, as well as electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted. Nearly identical text was introduced as SB 3814 in the 2022 legislative session, and as SB 1312 in 2023.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Illinois

SB 1312 / HB 2362: 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 entering or remaining on a "critical infrastructure facility" is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and $25,000. Aggravated criminal trespass to a critical infrastructure facility--defined as trespass with "intent to damage, destroy, or tamper with equipment" in the facility--is a Class 3 felony punishable by 2-5 years and $25,000. The bill newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under Illinois law to include gas and oil pipelines, including those under construction, and a range of pipeline-related facilities, as well as electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted. Nearly identical text was introduced as SB 3814 in the 2022 legislative session.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Feb 2023.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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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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Iowa

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

Introduces felony penalties for the offense of "riot," previously an aggravated misdemeanor, such that the offense is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $7,500. Preexisting 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 law also converts "unlawful assembly" from a simple to an aggravated misdemeanor. Preexisting 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 law, 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 law, 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 law 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 law 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 law 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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Kansas

SB 172: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Creates four new criminal offenses that could capture the conduct of peaceful protesters near pipelines. Under the law, entering or remaining in a "critical infrastructure" facility, or on property containing such a facility if it is posted with signs or fenced off, is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Trespassing with intent to "tamper with" a critical infrastructure facility, or to "impede or inhibit" its operations, is a Level 7 felony, punishable by approximately 2 years in prison. Actually, knowingly "tampering with" the facility is a Level 6 felony, punishable by approximately 3 years in prison, and doing so with the intent to impede or inhibit the facility's operations is a Level 5 felony, punishable by approximately 4 years in prison. The law also creates a broad new definition of critical infrastructure," which includes among many other things "a portion of any belowground or aboveground oil, gas, hazardous liquid or chemical pipeline" or any storage, processing, or distribution facility for crude oil or natural gas. When it was introduced, the law included new penalties for "defacing" and "vandalizing" critical infrastructure; civil liability for any person or "entity" that provided compensation to someone to commit the offenses described above; and added the trespass and damage offenses above to the underlying crimes that could be prosecuted under the state's RICO law. These provisions were removed prior to the law's enactment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 8 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 2 March 2021; Approved by House 30 March 2021; Signed by Governor Kelly 9 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Kentucky

HB 44: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Creates 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, HB 44 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). As introduced, the bill created a new offense 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, could presumably have fallen under this definition. Prior to the law's enactment, lawmakers removed the language penalizing activity that "impeded" or "inhibited" operations of infrastructure like a pipeline. The enacted version instead penalizes "tamper[ing] with the operations of a key infrastructure asset... in a manner that renders the operations harmful or dangerous." The introduced bill also provided 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. Prior to enactment, this was narrowed to anyone who "knowingly directs or causes a person" to commit the tampering offense. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 29 Aug 2019; Prefiled as BR 204 on 29 August 2019; Approved by House 10 February 2020; Approved by Senate 5 March 2020; Signed by Governor Beshear on 16 March 2020

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Louisiana

HB 727: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR GAS AND OIL PIPELINES

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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Louisiana

HB 205: New racketeering penalties for protesters

Would add several protest-related offenses to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted under Louisiana’s racketeering law, which carries steep penalties. The nine offenses added to the racketeering law under the bill include “riot,” “inciting to riot,” and “criminal damage to historic buildings or landmarks by defacing with graffiti.” Louisiana law defines “riot” broadly, requiring no actual violence or damage but three or more people engaged in a “public disturbance” that creates a “danger of injury or damage” by an “imminent threat of tumultuous and violent conduct.” As such, individuals who participate in tumultuous protests, or who “incite” others to participate in them, could be charged with a violation of Louisiana’s racketeering law if they did so more than once and as part of an enterprise with others. Racketeering violations are punishable by up to 50 years in prison with hard labor and a one million dollar fine. The bill also adds “criminal damage to a critical infrastructure” to the racketeering law, such that certain civil disobedience actions near pipelines and other infrastructure could be covered as well. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Feb 2024; Approved by House 2 April 2024

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Riot

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Massachusetts

HD 1358: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS THAT BLOCK ROADS

Would penalize "any person who intentionally blocks or prevents access to a public roadway or highway while protesting with the express purpose of preventing passage of others." Under the bill, anyone who intentionally blocked a public road in the course of a protest could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. This bill is nearly identical to HB 1586, introduced in 2021, and HB 1428, introduced in 2019. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Massachusetts

HD 1348: NEW CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR DEATHS DURING PROTESTS

Would create the new criminal offense of "manslaughter caused by reckless disregard of life while protesting or blocking highway or roadway access." The offense would be added to the definition of "manslaughter" under Massachusetts law. Accordingly, if organizers led a protest onto a road and a protester was hit by a car, e.g., the organizers could potentially be held liable for manslaughter under the bill. The offense would be punishable by up to twenty years in prison. The bill is nearly identical to HD 3284, introduced in 2019. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Minnesota

HF 1445 / SF 1493: New penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines

Would create vicarious liability for any person or entity that "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" a person who trespasses on critical infrastructure property for any damages committed by the trespasser. The bill would also create strict liability for any damages caused by a person who trespasses on critical infrastructure property. If a person or entity intentionally recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with a person to trespass they are guilty of a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $3,000, if they fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent the violation. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Feb 2023.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Minnesota

SF 935: BARRING PUBLIC BENEFITS FOR PROTEST-RELATED OFFENSES

Would broadly disqualify a person convicted of an offense during a protest from receiving public assistance. Any "offense related to the person's illegal conduct at a protest, demonstration, rally, civil unrest, or march" would disqualify the person from a range of benefits, including food assistance, education loans and grants, and unemployment assistance. Under the bill, a person convicted of even a misdemeanor that is deemed somehow "related" to their participation in a peaceful protest could face permanent disqualification from such benefits. Nearly identical text was introduced as HF 466/SF 2381 in 2021. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 30 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Limit on Public Benefits

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Mississippi

SB 2343: Requiring state permission for protests near statehouse and other state government buildings

The law requires that organizers obtain written permission from state law enforcement before holding a protest near the Mississippi statehouse or other state government buildings. As a result, state officials will be able to approve or disallow protests at the statehouse, including rallies and demonstrations against the actions of state officials. The permit requirement broadly applies to protests near state-owned buildings or any other property that is “occupied by any [state] official” or entity. It applies to protests on the streets and sidewalks “immediately adjacent” to such locations, as well as those that can be “reasonably be expected to block, impede, or otherwise hinder” access to such locations. The process for obtaining a permit is not stated in the law, but is to be determined by rules issued by the state law enforcement agency. Organizers of protests in Jackson, Mississippi, where the statehouse and most state government buildings are located, must already obtain a municipal permit to hold most protests; the law creates an additional state permitting requirement. The law also expands the jurisdiction of state law enforcement over infractions that may occur during nonviolent protests throughout the capitol city of Jackson: The law authorizes state police to make arrests for violations not only of state law, but of Jackson city ordinances “related to disturbance of the public peace” that may occur. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 16 Jan 2023; Approved by the Senate 8 February; Approved by the House 8 March; Signed by Governor Reeves 21 April 2023.

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Mississippi

HB 1243: New Penalties for Protests Near Critical Infrastructure

Creates new potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law establishes two new offenses: "critical infrastructure trespass," and "impeding critical infrastructure." Critical infrastructure trespass is defined in the law as knowingly entering onto infrastructure property without authorization or not leaving once notified to depart; the offense is 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 law, such impediment is punishable by 7 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 law 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: enacted

Introduced 19 Feb 2020; Approved by House 4 March 2020; Approved by Senate 15 June 2020; Signed by Governor 25 June 2020.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Missouri

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

Creates new potential penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The law--which was substituted by a Missouri Senate committee for a House bill on sentencing guidelines--heightens the penalties for trespass occurring 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 is 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 law. The law also newly criminalizes "damage" to critical infrastructure, broadly defined to include vandalism, and makes it a Class C felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law also newly and broadly defines "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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Missouri

HB 1413: Limiting public employees' ability to picket

***Note: A Judge of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County found HB 1413 unconstitutional in its entirety and granted a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the law on January 27, 2020. ***

Bars certain public employees from picketing. The law requires that all labor agreements negotiated between a "public body" and a labor organization "shall expressly prohibit all strikes and picketing of any kind." The law further mandates that such agreements provide for the "immediate termination" of "any public employee who...pickets over any personnel matter." "Public body" is broadly defined in the law to include "the state of Missouri, or any officer, agency, department, bureau, division, board or commission of the state, or any other political subdivision or special district of or within the state"; accordingly, the law may apply to many labor agreements. While "picketing" is not defined under the law, Missouri Code elsewhere refers to "picketing or other organized protests" as "constitutionally protected activity," indicating that picketing as used in HB 1413 includes protests and demonstrations unrelated to labor strikes. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Jan 2018; Approved by House 12 February 2018; approved by Senate 16 May 2018; Signed by Governor Greitens 1 June 2018

Issue(s): Strikes

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Missouri

HB 2218: Imposing costs of protest damage on organizers and sponsors

Would create new civil cause of action against any person who “sponsors or organizes” a protest or demonstration that causes property or personal damage. Under the bill, if a protest results in property damage, or if it blocks a highway or emergency vehicle, resulting in property damage or personal injury, “any person” who sponsored or organized the protest is liable for damage costs. The bill does not require that the organizer or sponsor have any role in causing the damage or injury, or any intent or knowledge that damage or injury would occur during the protest, in order to be liable.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Traffic Interference

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Missouri

SB 26: heightened penalties for blocking roads

Note: This bill received later amendments that removed entirely the provisions related to "unlawful traffic interference". Would criminalize protests that block traffic as "unlawful traffic interference" and provide for harsh penalties. Like SB 9, introduced in the 2020 session, the bill would criminalize a person's intentional blocking of traffic on a public street or highway, whether with her body or an object, as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the offense is repeated, or takes place on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine. If the offense is committed while the person is part of an "unlawful assembly," it is a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Missouri law currently defines an "unlawful assembly" as a gathering of at least six people in order to violate a law with force or violence. The bill would broaden this definition to include a gathering of two or more people to violate any law, with or without force or violence. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 1 Dec 2020; Approved by Senate 25 February 2021; Approved by House 4 May 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Montana

HB 481: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Heightens penalties for protests near oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure facilities," including those under construction. The law creates an offense of trespassing on critical infrastructure, defined as willfully and knowingly entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility that is posted or fenced. The offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,500 fine. If a person trespasses with the intent to willfully impede the facility's operations, or damage, deface, or tamper with facility equipment, the offense is a felony punishable by up to eighteen months in prison or a $4,500 fine. An organization that is found to be a conspirator in trespass on critical infrastructure is liable for fines that are ten times the amount authorized for the crime. A person who trespasses can be held liable for damages to property while trespassing, including damages to network performance or outage issues proximately caused by the trespass. An entity or person that compensates or provides consideration to someone for trespass may be held vicariously liable for damages committed by that person. "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: enacted

Introduced 18 Feb 2021; Approved by House 2 March 2021; Approved by Senate 16 April 2021; Governor Signed 14 May 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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New Jersey

S 834 / A 3489: NEW PENALTIES FOR BLOCKING TRAFFIC AND OTHER PROTEST-ADJACENT CONDUCT

Would make it a felony offense to purposely or recklessly obstruct a public road while engaging in "disorderly conduct" or a "riot," punishable by up to a year and a half in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both "disorderly conduct" and "riot" are defined broadly under New Jersey law: "Disorderly conduct," for instance, could include "recklessly creating a risk of public inconvenience" by causing a "hazardous condition," or using "unreasonably loud and offensively coarse" language in a public place. The bill would also broaden the definition of "riot," such that a group of five or more people who engage in "disorderly conduct" and cause any damage to property or persons could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. Individuals who deface a monument during an unruly protest would also face heightened penalties under the bill: Current law penalizes defacing or damaging any public monument or structure as a disorderly persons offense, subject to six months in jail. The bill would make the same offense a felony punishable by a year and a half in prison and $10,000, if committed during a "riot." The bill would create new sanctions for protest organizers and patrons, as well: Under the bill, a person who "conspires with others as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager to commit" one of a number of crimes during a protest would be guilty of "promotion of violent, disorderly assembly" and face enhanced criminal penalties. The text was introduced as S3261 during the 2020-2021 session, and as S1783/A4577 during the 2022-2023 session.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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New Jersey

S 652: HEIGHTENED PENALTIES FOR BLOCKING TRAFFIC, RIOT, DISORDERLY CONDUCT, AND RELATED OFFENSES

Would make it a felony offense to purposely or recklessly obstruct a public road while engaging in "disorderly conduct" or a "riot," punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both "disorderly conduct" and "riot" are defined broadly under New Jersey law: "Disorderly conduct," for instance, could include "recklessly creating a risk" of "public inconvenience" by causing a "hazardous condition," or using "unreasonably loud and offensively coarse" language in a public place. The bill would also broaden the definition of "riot," such that a group of seven or more people who engage in "disorderly conduct" and cause any damage to property could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. The bill would create a new felony offense for disorderly conduct in a "place of public accommodation" that is committed during a "riot." It would also establish a felony offense for chalking or using graffiti on a public monument during an unruly protest: Current law penalizes purposely defacing or damaging any public monument or structure as a disorderly persons offense, subject to six months in jail. The bill would make the same offense a felony punishable by a year and a half in prison and $10,000, if committed during a "riot." The same bill was proposed as S84/A456 in the 2022-2023 session. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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New Jersey

S 399: EXPANDED "RIOT" DEFINITION, NEW PENALTIES FOR "INCITEMENT TO RIOT", AND NEW LEGAL DEFENSE FOR PEOPLE WHO HURT PROTESTERS

Would expand the legal definition of "riot," a third degree offense under the bill, 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 bill, 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 bill. 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 bill, "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 bill 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 punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill could also 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 bill 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. The same bill was proposed as S3992 in the 2020-2021 session, and as S1206 in the 2022-2023 session.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2024.

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

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New York

S 8646: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new criminal offense that could cover unpermitted protests and demonstrations on streets, sidewalks, or near public buildings. According to the bill, a person participating in a protest without a permit who “obstructs” cars or pedestrians, or prevents people from entering or exiting buildings, commits a new offense of “aggravated disorderly conduct” if they intend “to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” or are “recklessly creating a risk thereof.” The offense would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and $1,000. As written, an individual in a spontaneous protest that blocks a sidewalk, “recklessly creating a risk” of inconveniencing people, would be guilty of the offense. The bill would also add the offense to the underlying offenses that can be charged as a hate crime under New York law, and allow individuals arrested for the offense to be held for bail.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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New York

A 8951: "Domestic terrorism" offense for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new felony “domestic terrorism” offense that could apply to nonviolent protesters who block roads or sidewalks. Under the bill, a person commits “domestic terrorism” if they “act with the intent to cause the deliberate blocking” of a public road, bridge, or tunnel that interferes with traffic or public safety. Notably, the bill does not require that the person actually block a road, only that they act with that intent, so that even planning or otherwise facilitating a street protest that would interfere with traffic could be covered by the offense. Further, for the purpose of the bill, “public road” is defined broadly to include “every class of public road, square and place,” including driveways, alleys, and sidewalks. If enacted, individuals who attend or organize a sidewalk protest that interferes with pedestrian traffic could face felony charges and up to 7 years in prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 30 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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New York

A 8334: CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS THAT DISTURB EVENTS OR MEETINGS

Would create a new serious misdemeanor offense, “disruption or disturbance of a lawful assembly,” that could cover protesters at private and public events. Under the bill, someone whose conduct “substantially impairs the ability to conduct” a lawful gathering, is intended to cause a disruption, and violates “the implicit customs or usage” or “explicit rules” of the meeting, commits a Class A misdemeanor—punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000. Covered events include groups of just two or more individuals who reserve a space by paying a fee or filing an application, and use it for a peaceful and lawful gathering. If adopted, a protester who interrupts a city council meeting or other gathering of officials, or a private speaking event, could face a year in jail.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Dec 2023.

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New York

A 2309: Mandatory Sanctions for Campus Protesters

Would create new mandatory penalties that could be applied against nonviolent protesters at all state and city colleges and universities in New York. Under the bill, a student that "materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others" would face a minimum one week suspension for the first offense; a minimum two week suspension for a second offense; a minimum one semester suspension for a third offense; and expulsion for a fourth offense. As such, a student protester that was deemed to interrupt a speaker at an event would be required to be suspended.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 25 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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North Carolina

HB 40: HEIGHTENED PENALTIES FOR "RIOT" AND RELATED OFFENSES

Increases the penalty for an individual who "incites or urges another to engage in a riot," if a riot occurs and results in $1,500 of property damage or injury. In such a case, the individual is guilty of a Class E felony, punishable by more than two years in prison, even if they did not personally cause any damage or injury. Under the law, an individual convicted of "riot" or incitement offenses is also liable to anyone whose property or person was damaged by the riot, in the amount of three times the actual damage in addition to court costs and attorney’s fees. Preexisting North Carolina law defines riot to include a "public disturbance" by a group of three or more people that presents an "imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct," resulting in a "clear and present danger" of property damage or injury. Under this definition, no violence or damage need occur for participants in a gathering to be arrested for and charged with "riot." While the new law would add a limitation requiring an “overt act” in order for someone to be convicted of a riot or incitement to riot offense, that requirement could be read broadly to include peaceful chanting or marching with a crowd that is deemed to be a “riot.” Finally, the law requires that a judge, rather than another judicial official, determine the pretrial release of an individual charged with a riot offense. The judge may hold the individual for 48 hours, and may require that they stay away from places where the "riot" occurred. The text of HB 40 is nearly identical to the amended version of HB 805 that passed both the North Carolina House and Senate in 2021 before being vetoed by the Governor. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 1 Feb 2023; Approved by House 8 February 2023; Approved by Senate 9 March 2023; Became law without Governor Cooper's signature 21 March 2023

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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North Carolina

SB 58: New penalties for protests near pipelines

Introduces new potential criminal and civil penalties for peaceful protests near existing and planned pipelines and other energy infrastructure. The enacted version of the law makes it a Class C felony offense to knowingly and willfully “obstruct, impede, or impair” or “attempt to obstruct, impede, or impair” the services of an energy facility. The law defines “energy facility” to include any facility involved in the transmission of “electricity, fuel, or another form or source of energy,” including facilities that are under construction or otherwise not functioning. As such, a group of people protesting the construction of a fossil fuel pipeline could face more than 15 years in prison and a mandatory $250,000 fine if they impede or impair the construction of a pipeline, for instance by blocking workers’ access to the pipeline construction site. Under the law, such protesters, along with anyone who “aides or abets, solicits, conspires, or lends material support” to their act of impeding construction could also face significant civil penalties from the fossil fuel company. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 1 Feb 2023; Approved by Senate 14 March 2023; Approved by House 14 June 2023; Signed by Governor Cooper 19 June 2023

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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North Carolina

SB 300: Heightened penalties for "riot"

**Note: This bill was later amended to remove all riot provisions except the increased penalties** Would increase the penalty for engaging in a "riot," from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class H felony, punishable by 25 months in prison. If the "riot" resulted in property damage of over $1,500, or serious injury, anyone deemed to have engaged in the "riot" (regardless of their role in the damage or injury) could be convicted of a Class G felony, punishable by 31 months in prison. The bill would not alter North Carolina's broad definition of "riot," which does not require any actual violence or destructive activity. Under the bill, peaceful protesters in a group of three or more who present an "imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct" that "creates a clear and present danger" of property damage or injury could face felony convictions and lengthy prison sentences. Note: A later amendment eliminated the proposed increase in penalty for engaging in a "riot." It also eliminated the proposal to make it a Class G felony for engaging in a riot that resulted in property damage over $1,500 or serious bodily injury. Instead, it replaced that proposal by making it a Class G felony if during the course of a riot a person caused over $1,500 in property damage or a Class F felony if the person during the course of a riot caused serious bodily injury or brandished a dangerous weapon or substance. It also clarified that "mere presence alone without an overt act" is not sufficient to sustain a conviction of rioting. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 15 Mar 2021; Approved by Senate 12 May 2021; Approved by House 18 August 2021; Signed by Governor Cooper 2 September 2021

Issue(s): Riot

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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): Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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North Dakota

HB 1426: Heightened penalties for riot offences

Increases the penalties imposed for riot offenses. Under the law, participation in a riot is a Class A rather than Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Engaging in a riot involving more than 100 people is made a Class B felony, subject to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Governor Burgum signed the law on 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Riot

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North Dakota

HB 1293: Expanded scope of criminal trespass

Expands the scope of criminal trespass activity under state law such that it could encompass protests, demonstrations, or other gatherings on private property, if notice against trespass is "clear from the circumstances." The offense could be punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. The law also creates an additional, noncriminal trespass offense and allows officers to issue a citation with a $250 fine for trespassing. Governor Burgum signed the law on February 23, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Jan 2017; Signed into law 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Trespass

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North Dakota

HB 1304: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Prohibits the wearing of masks, hoods, or other device that "conceals any portion" of an individual's face while committing a criminal offense, in order to avoid recognition or identification. As drafted, the offense could encompass, e.g., individuals wearing hooded clothing while participating in a protest and also committing a minor offense such as jaywalking. Under the law, commission of the offense comprises a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Jan 2017; Governor Burgum signed it 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Face Covering

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Ohio

SB 33: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

The law heightens penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure by expanding the definitions of "criminal trespass" and "criminal mischief." The law 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 and "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 law 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: enacted

Introduced 12 Feb 2019; Approved by Senate 1 May 2019; Approved by House 17 December 2020; Signed by Governor DeWine 11 January 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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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

**Note: Portions of HB1674 were preliminarily enjoined by a federal district judge on October 27, 2021, temporarily blocking enforcement of the law's 1) penalties for protesters who obstruct traffic, and 2) penalties for organizations that "conspire" with someone who is convicted of certain protest-related offenses.**

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

HB 2095: Racketeering penalties for those involved in "unlawful assemblies"

Adds "unlawful assemblies" to the offenses that can be prosecuted as "racketeering activity" under Oklahoma's RICO statute. As a result, an organization or individual found to have "attempted" or "conspired" with individuals to engage in or encourage a protest that is deemed an "unlawful assembly" can be prosecuted under RICO and subject to felony penalties. Oklahoma law broadly defines "unlawful assembly" to include a group of three or more people who gather without lawful authority in a manner "as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 1 Feb 2021; Approved by House 8 March 2021; Approved by Senate 21 April 2021; Signed by Governor Stitt 28 April 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy

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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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Oklahoma

HB 2128: Heightened penalties for protesters who trespass onto private property

Increases the potential penalties levied on individuals who protest on private property without permission. The law allows prosecutors to hold anyone arrested for or convicted of trespass liable for any damages to personal or real property caused while trespassing. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Feb 2017; Governor Fallin signed into law 15 May 2017

Issue(s): Trespass

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Oregon

HB 2772: Criminalizing Certain Protests as Domestic Terrorism

As introduced, the bill would have created a sweeping new crime of "domestic terrorism" that would include if a person intentionally attempted to cause "disruption of daily life" that "severely affects the population, infrastructure, environment, or government functioning of this state." Under this definition, a peaceful protest that blocked traffic in a major commercial district could be defined as domestic terrorism, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Lawmakers substantially amended the bill prior to its enactment, however rights groups argue that it could still cover certain acts of civil disobedience. Under the enacted law, “domestic terrorism” in the first degree is a Class B felony and includes intentionally destroying or substantially damaging “critical infrastructure,” with the intent to disrupt the services provided by critical infrastructure. Attempting to destroy or substantially damage critical infrastructure is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $125,000. “Critical infrastructure” is broadly defined to include pipelines and roads.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 9 Jan 2023; Approved by House 8 June 2023; Approved by Senate 23 June 2023; Signed by Governor Kotek 4 August 2023

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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South Dakota

SB 151: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Heightens potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure. Under the law, knowingly trespassing on property containing a critical infrastructure facility is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Knowingly tampering with any property and as a direct result interfering, inhibiting, or impeding the maintenance or construction of a critical infrastructure facility is a felony punishable by two years in prison and/or a $4,000 fine. A person or organization found to be a "conspirator" in any of the above offenses faces a range of criminal fines. Any owner, lessee, or operator of any critical infrastructure facility where a crime is committed under one of the above provisions is designated a "victim" under South Dakota law, which entitles them to restitution and other victims' rights. As such, a company that owns a critical infrastructure facility can seek restitution from an individual protester convicted of any of the above provisions, as well as from any person or entity found to be a "conspirator." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 4 Feb 2020; Approved by Senate 27 February 2020; Approved by House 9 March 2020; Signed by Governor March 18 2020

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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South Dakota

HB 1117: New criminal and civil liability for "incitement to riot"

Revises the state's laws on rioting and replaces a "riot-boosting" law that was passed in 2019 but later blocked by a federal court as unconstitutional. The law revises the definition of "riot" under South Dakota law to be "any intentional use of force or violence by three or more persons, acting together and without authority of law, to cause any injury to any person or any damage to property." Under the law, "incitement to riot" is a new felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, and defined as conduct that "urges" three or more people to use force or violence to cause personal injury or property damage, if the force or violence is "imminent" and the urging is likely to "incite or produce" the force or violence. The law defines "urging" to include "instigating, inciting, or directing," but excludes "oral or written advocacy of ideas or expression of belief that does not urge" imminent force or violence. Under the law, individuals may additionally be civilly liable for riot and incitement to riot, enabling lawsuits against protesters by the state, counties, or municipalities. Both 2019's "riot-boosting" law and HB 1117 appear to target protests against construction of the Keystone XL and other pipelines. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 29 Jan 2020; Approved by House 18 February 2020; Approved by Senate 5 March 2020; Signed by Governor Noem 23 March 2020

Issue(s): Riot

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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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South Dakota

SB 176: Expanding governor's power to restrict certain protests

Expands the governor's authority to curtail protest activities on public lands and restricts protests that interfere with highway traffic. The law enables the governor and sheriff to prohibit gatherings of 20 or more people on public land, if the gathering might damage the land or interfere with the renter's use of the land. The law enables South Dakota's Department of Transportation to prohibit or otherwise restrict an individual or vehicle from stopping, standing, parking, or being present on any highway if it interferes with traffic. The law also expands the crime of trespass, providing that an individual who defies a posted order not to enter a zone where assembling has been prohibited would be guilty of criminal trespass. Obstructing traffic or committing criminal trespass are classified as Class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by one year in jail or a $2,000 fine, or both. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Mar 2017; Governor Daugaard signed into law 14 March 2017

Issue(s): Traffic Interference, Trespass

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Tennessee

SB 451 / HB 881: Mandatory penalties for expanded aggravated riot offense

Expands the definition of "aggravated riot" and creates new mandatory minimum penalties for that offense. To be convicted of "riot" under Tennessee law, a person only needs to knowingly gather with two or more people whose tumultuous and violent conduct creates "grave danger of substantial damage to property or serious bodily injury to persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental function." For instance, one could be held guilty of riot for merely joining a large protest in which there is isolated pushing, even if no one is injured. Under preexisting law, a person could be held liable for aggravated riot if they participated in a riot where someone was injured or substantial property damage occurred, even if the person did not commit any violence nor intended violence to occur. Under the law, a person may also be guilty of aggravated riot if they participated in a riot and either participated in exchange for compensation or "traveled from outside the state with the intent to commit a criminal offense." A "criminal offense" could include, for example, temporarily blocking a street as part of a protest. "Aggravated riot" is a Class E felony, which is punishable by up to 6 years in jail and a fine of $3,000; the law also introduces a mandatory minimum of at least 45 days of imprisonment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 8 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 11 March 2021; Approved by House 28 April 2021; Signed by Governor 13 May 2021

Issue(s): Riot

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Tennessee

HB 8005/SB 8005: Heightened Penalties for "Inconvenient" Protests and Protest Camps on State Property

The law heightens penalties for certain offenses that could encompass conduct by peaceful protesters. The law heightens existing criminal penalties for blocking a street, sidewalk, or "any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances" from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor. Accordingly, protesters who obstruct or make it "unreasonably inconvenient" to use a street or sidewalk could face up to one year in jail. The law likewise heightens penalties for the existing offense of "obstructing" or "interfering with" a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering, from a Class B to Class A misdemeanor. Protesters who intentionally "interfere with" a meeting of the legislature or other government officials, including by staging a loud protest, could therefore face up to one year in jail. The law also targets protest encampments on the grounds of the Capitol and other areas by broadening the definition of "camping," and heightening penalties for camping on state property. As such, protesters who use or place any "piece of furniture," shelter, or structure on state property could be charged with a Class E felony, if they continue to do so 24 hours after receiving a warning. The offense would be punishable by up to six years in prison, a fine of $3,000, and restitution for any property damage. The law also amends Tennessee provisions on "riot," (which is defined broadly), including by requiring those convicted of "inciting" or "urging" a riot to pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the offense. When it was introduced, the legislation authorized the Tennessee Attorney General to intervene and prosecute offenses where there has been damage to state property, including those arising in the context of peaceful protests, if the district attorney declined to do so; however those provisions were removed prior to the law's enactment, and replaced with a requirement that district attorneys produce a report on such offenses and how they were dealt with. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 7 Aug 2020; Approved by House and Senate 12 August 2020; Signed by Governor Lee 20 August 2020

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference, Camping

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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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Tennessee

SB 0902: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Imposes a new fine on any person who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly obstructs a public highway or street "including in the course of a protest" and in doing so interferes with an emergency vehicle's access to or through the highway or street. "Emergency vehicle" is broadly defined as "any vehicle of a governmental department or public service corporation when responding to an emergency," a police or fire department vehicle, or an ambulance. Unlawful obstruction of a street or highway was already a Class C misdemeanor subject to up to 30 days in jail; the law adds a $200 fine to the penalty. Sponsors made clear that the law was aimed at protests that obstructed highways. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 9 Feb 2017; Governor Haslam signed into law 12 April 2017

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Tennessee

SB 2570 / HB 2031: Heightened penalties for protesters who block streets and highways

Would significantly increase the penalty for knowingly or recklessly obstructing a street, highway, “or other place used for the passage of vehicles or conveyances.” Instead of a Class A misdemeanor, as provided by current law, the offense would be a Class D felony punishable by at least 2 and up to 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. As written, the bill’s felony offense could cover protesters who blocked a street or made passage "unreasonably inconvenient" even if there were no cars on it. The felony offense could also apply to protesters who blocked a driveway or alley, even temporarily. The bill would also create a new civil cause of action such that anyone who knowingly or recklessly blocked a street could additionally be sued for civil damages.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 23 Jan 2024; Approved by Senate 23 April 2024; Approved by House 23 April 2024

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Traffic Interference

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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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Utah

SB 173: Criminal penalties for protests that disturb legislative or other government meetings

Creates new potential penalties for individuals protesting convenings of the legislature or other meetings of government officials. The law expands "disorderly conduct" to include a person who recklessly causes public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm by making "unreasonable noises" at an official meeting or in a private place that can be heard at an official meeting. "Disorderly conduct" also includes obstructing pedestrian traffic at an official meeting or refusing to leave an official meeting when asked by law enforcement. The law also increases the penalty for disorderly conduct, such that it is punishable by a $750 fine on the first offense (an infraction), up to 3 months in jail if a person was warned to cease prohibited conduct (Class C misdemeanor), up to 6 months for a second offense (Class B misdemeanor), and up to 1 year for a third offense (Class A misdemeanor). Accordingly, the law could, for example, be used to penalize silent protesters who refuse to leave a legislative committee meeting. An earlier version of the bill explicitly made it unlawful to commit even a "single, loud outburst, absent other disruptive conduct, that does not exceed five seconds in length." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 24 Feb 2020; Approved by Senate 5 March 2020; Approved by House 12 March 2020; Signed by Governor 30 March 2020

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Utah

HB 370: New Penalties for Protests Near Pipelines, Roadways, and other Infrastructure

As introduced, the bill would have created new potential criminal liability for protesters in many locations by criminalizing acts that "inhibit" or "impede" critical infrastructure facilities. The bill's original text had a sweeping definition of "critical infrastructure facility" that included highways, bridges, transportation systems, food distribution systems, law enforcement response systems, financial systems, and energy infrastructure including pipelines--whether under construction or operational. The bill created a new felony offense for "inhibiting," or "impeding" the facility, its equipment, or operation, such that protesters who intentionally inhibited or impeded the operation of a roadway or construction of a pipeline could have faced life in prison. Amendments to the bill substantially narrowed the offense, however. The enacted law criminalizes "substantially... inhibiting or impeding" the operation of critical infrastructure only if doing so "causes widespread injury or damage to persons or property." Amendments also narrowed the definition of "critical infrastructure facility," including by removing highways, bridges, transportation systems, food distribution systems, law enforcement response systems, and financial systems from the definition. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 3 Feb 2023; Approved by House 14 February 2023; Approved by Senate 28 February 2023; Signed by Governor Cox 14 March 2023

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Traffic Interference

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Washington

SB 6160: Heightened penalties for protests that block traffic

Would create a new felony offense that could cover street protesters who obstruct traffic and refuse to disperse. Under current state law, if a group of four or more individuals includes anyone whose conduct creates a substantial risk of injury or substantial property damage, each member of the group commits a misdemeanor if law enforcement orders them to disperse and they refuse to do so. The bill would raise this offense to a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $10,000, if individuals refuse to disperse from a public road and are obstructing traffic. The bill would also increase the penalty for intentionally and unlawfully blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic, from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, such that protesters who block a sidewalk could face up to 1 year in jail and $5,000.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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West Virginia

HB 5091: Heightened penalties for protesters near pipelines and other infrastructure

Increases the penalties and broaden offenses that could cover nonviolent protesters near pipelines and other infrastructure. The law amends West Virginia’s 2020 critical infrastructure law to remove the limitation that the law’s offenses could only occur on critical infrastructure property “if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs that.. indicate that entry is forbidden.” As a result, many more infrastructure sites are covered by the 2020 law’s trespass and tampering offenses, which carry significant penalties. The law also makes convictions for second and subsequent offenses of either the trespassing or tampering offenses a felony punishable by at least 2 and up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000-$15,000. The law increases the fine for a person who “vandalizes, defaces, or tampers with” equipment in a critical infrastructure facility that causes damage of more than $2,500, from $1,000-$5,000 to $3,000-$10,000. (As introduced, the bill made second convictions punishable by a minimum of 5 years and a fine of $100,000-$250,000, and increased the fine for tampering or vandalizing from $1,000-$5,000 to $25,000-$100,000.)

(See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 25 Jan 2024; Approved by House 6 February 2024; Approved by Senate 4 March 2024; Signed by Governor Justice 26 March 2024

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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West Virginia

HB 4615: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Heightens potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure. Under the law, knowingly trespassing on property containing a critical infrastructure facility is punishable by a year in jail and a $500 fine. Criminal trespass on critical infrastructure property with intent to "vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment, or impede or inhibit operations" of the facility is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $1,000 fine. Actually vandalizing, defacing, or tampering with the facility--regardless of actual damage--is a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and a $2,000 fine. An individual convicted of any of the offenses, and any entity that "compensates, provides consideration to or remunerates" a person for committing the offenses, is also civilly liable for any damage sustained. An organization or person found to have "conspired" to commit any of the offenses--regardless of whether they were committed--is subject to a criminal fine. The law newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under West Virginia law to include a range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted with signs indicating that entry is prohibited. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 30 Jan 2020; Approved by House 13 February 2020; Approved by Senate 7 March 2020; Signed by Governor Justice 25 March 2020

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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West Virginia

HB 4618: Eliminating police liability for deaths while dispersing riots and unlawful assemblies

Reaffirms West Virginia's problematic law on rioting, and adds the West Virginia Capitol Police to those authorities who cannot be held liable for the deaths and wounding of individuals in the course of dispersing riots and unlawful assemblies. Under prior West Virginia law, the State Police, sheriffs, and mayors had authority to use means such as curfews and warrantless searches to disperse riots and unlawful assemblies; the law reaffirms and extends this authority to the Capitol Police. According to the law, if a bystander is asked to assist in the dispersal and fails to do so, he or she "shall be deemed a rioter." The law also adds Capitol Police to existing provisions eliminating liability if anyone present, "as spectator or otherwise, be killed or wounded," while the authorities used "any means" to disperse riots or unlawful assemblies or arrest those involved. The law was passed during a statewide strike by West Virginia teachers, thousands of whom protested in February 2018 at the State Capitol. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 13 Feb 2018; Approved by House 22 February 2018; Approved by Senate 8 March 2018; Signed by Governor Justice 10 March 2018

Issue(s): Police Response, Riot, Strikes

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Wisconsin

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

Creates new potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other property of "energy providers." The law expands existing provisions related to trespass and property damage to broadly include the property of all companies in the oil and gas industry. Under the law, 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" is a Class H felony, punishable by six years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Accordingly, protests in a range of locations may 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, is likewise a Class H felony under the law. (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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Wisconsin

AB 70 / SB 96: BROAD NEW DEFINITION OF "RIOT" and related felony offenses

Would broadly define "riot" under Wisconsin law and create vague new felony offenses that could cover and chill peaceful protest activity. The bill defines a “riot” as a “public disturbance” involving an act of violence or the threat of violence by someone in a gathering of 3 or more people. No actual damage or injury need take place for a gathering to become a “riot,” only a “clear and present danger” of damage or injury. As such, a large street protest where a single participant threatens to push somebody could be deemed a "riot," with no actual violence or property damage being committed by anyone. The bill creates a Class I felony offense--punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine--for anyone who intentionally incites another “to commit a ‘riot.’” The bill defines “incite” as “to urge, promote, organize, encourage, or instigate other persons.” The incitement offense as drafted is not limited to urging actual violence against people or property, but could seemingly cover any expression of support for demonstrators in a crowd that had been deemed a “riot.” The bill also creates a Class H felony--punishable by up to 6 years in prison and $10,000--for someone who intentionally "commits an act of violence” while part of a “riot.” Yet “an act of violence” is vague and could cover an act of self-defense, non-criminal acts of violence against property--such as destroying one’s own protest sign--as well as minor unlawful violence against property like knocking over a trash can. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 27 Feb 2023; Approved by Assembly 22 March 2023

Issue(s): Riot

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