US Protest Law Tracker

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

45 states have
considered
241 bills
36 enacted 48 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jan. 26, 2022 (Wisconsin), Jan. 25, 2022 (Mississippi), Jan. 24, 2022 (Alabama, Illinois, Virginia)
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21 entries matching in provided filters in 15 states. Clear all filters
Alabama

SB 115: EXPANDED DEFINITION OF "RIOT," "INCITEMENT TO RIOT," AND NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS WHO BLOCK TRAFFIC

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as an assemblage of five or more people which results in conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons. This definition is broad enough to cover many peaceful protests, as well as other gatherings, where law enforcement merely perceives a danger of property damage. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." Under the bill, it is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to intentionally participate in a riot after receiving an order to disperse by law enforcement or when in violation of curfew. The bill provides that if any injuries or property damage exceeding $2,500 occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, even if that individual participant did not contribute to the injury or property damage. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "funds or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill provides that a person convicted of riot or incitement to riot must serve a minimum of 30 days without option for parole. They must also pay restitution including the cost of any damage to property, which could presumably include damage caused by other people. The bill creates a new offense of unlawful traffic interference for anyone who intentionally or recklessly impedes vehicular traffic by walking, standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, or placing an object in a way that blocks passage of a vehicle on a public or interstate highway. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a second offence (or if property is damaged or someone is injured) is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Finally, the bill requires that any locality that defunds a law enforcement agency is no longer eligible for any type of state funding unless they can prove fiscal or practical necessity. This bill is close to identical to the version of HB 445 that passed the House in March of 2021, but did not advance further in the 2021 legislative session (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability

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Alabama

HB 2 / SB 3: EXPANDED DEFINITION OF "RIOT," "INCITEMENT TO RIOT," AND NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS WHO BLOCK TRAFFIC

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as an assemblage of five or more people which results in conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons. This definition is broad enough to cover many peaceful protests, as well as other gatherings, where law enforcement merely perceives a danger of property damage. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." It is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to intentionally participate in a riot after receiving an order to disperse by law enforcement or when in violation of curfew. The bill provides that if any injuries or property damage exceeding $2500 occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, even if that individual participant did not contribute to the injury or property damage. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "solicits, incites, funds, urges or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill requires anyone charged with "riot, inciting a riot, or "aggravated riot" to be held without bail for up to 24 hours pending a hearing; it also adds mandatory minimum prison sentences for "riot," "aggravated riot," and "incitement to riot," and requires that anyone convicted pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the "riot" as well as any and all other losses suffered by any victim. The bill creates a new offense of unlawful traffic interference for anyone who intentionally or recklessly impedes traffic by walking, sitting, standing, kneeling, lying, or placing an object to impede the passage of a vehicle on a public or interstate highway. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a second offence (or if property is damaged or someone is injured) is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Finally, the bill requires that any locality that defunds a law enforcement agency is no longer eligible for any type of state funding unless they can prove fiscal or practical necessity. This bill is close to identical to the version of HB 445 that passed the House in March of 2021, but did not advance further in the 2021 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2022.

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

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Arizona

SB 1033: Enhanced penalties, new "mob intimidation" offense, and new liability for officials who restrain law enforcement

Would increase penalties for any offense committed in furtherance of a riot or an unlawful assembly. Arizona law defines riot and unlawful assembly broadly; unlawful assembly for instance includes merely being present at a gathering that includes two people who intend to engage in a riot, and refusing to disperse. Under the bills proposed penalty escalations, someone who commits a serious misdemeanor in a way deemed to be furthering an unlawful assembly could face felony penalties. The bill also creates a new offense of mob intimidation, defined as gathering with two or more people and using or threatening to use force to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing any act or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against the persons will. The new offense would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Finally, the bill provides that cities and towns have a duty to allow law enforcement to "respond appropriately" to protect property and people during riots and unlawful assemblies, and enables individuals to sue "for any damages" governing officials who breach that duty. If enacted, such provisions could deter local officials who might otherwise seek to limit aggressive law enforcement responses to protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Police Response, Riot, State Liability

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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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Georgia

HB 289: Restrictive permitting requirements, and heightened penalties for "unlawful assembly," blocking traffic, and defacing property

Would prohibits assemblies on public property that have not received a permit, seemingly banning all spontaneous, First Amendment-protected assemblies. Local permitting processes for assemblies on public property would require applicants to provide contact information for "individuals responsible for managing and maintaining order during the event" as well as an "emergency plan" addressing the "security resources" the organizer has devoted to the event. The bill expands the definition of "unlawful assembly" to include "two or more persons who harass or intimidate another person within any public accommodation." "Harass or intimidate" is not defined, meaning a boisterous protest in a public park or a university could potentially be deemed an "unlawful assembly." The bill would also bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from receiving state or local employment benefits. The bill increases the penalty for purposefully or recklessly obstructing any street or highway to a felony, punishable by at least one and up to five years in prison, and a fine of at least $1,000 and not more than $5,000, if the person convicted is part of an "unlawful assembly" and refuses an order of a police officer to remove an obstruction. The bill creates a new offense of "defacing, defiling, or abusing contemptuously" a state-owned or maintained monument or other structure during an "unlawful assembly", which is punishable by a penalty of at least 1 year and up to 15 years in prison, or a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. As such, a protester who chalked a sidewalk near a monument during an assembly that was deemed to be "unlawful" could face up to 15 years in jail. Further, the bill expands the state's "racketeering" provision to include soliciting someone to commit "unlawful assembly" or "riot," which is a felony punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison. Finally, the bill makes the governing authorities of a county or municipality civilly liable if they intentionally interfere with the ability of a law enforcement agency to provide reasonable law enforcement protection during an "unlawful assembly" or "riot." These provisions make it more likely that cities will aggressively police constitutionally-protected protests out of fear of costly liability if they are later deemed to be an "unlawful assembly". ***Note: HB 289 was originally a bill about drivers license requirements. Following HB 289's passage by the House, the Senate substituted anti-protest provisions that were originally proposed as SB 171.*** (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2021; Approved by House 26 February 2021

Issue(s): Security Costs, Riot, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

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Iowa

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

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

Status: enacted

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

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

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Iowa

SSB 1140: Heightened penalties for "riot," "unlawful assembly," protests that block traffic, and defacing monuments

Would elevate "riot" from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. Iowa law defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner," at least one of whom uses any unlawful force or violence against another person, or causes property damage. The bill would also elevate "unlawful assembly" from a simple misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $6,250 fine. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, any of whom are acting "in a violent manner," and who intend that any of them will commit an offense. Under the bill, it is a serious (rather than simple) misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $1,875 fine, to "obstruct" a sidewalk, street, or "other public way" with the intent to hinder its use by others. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during an unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by 2 years in jail and a $6,250 fine. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during a riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. The bill also creates a new felony offense for intentionally defacing or altering public property, "including a monument or statue." The offense is a Class D felony. The bill provides that a sentence for the offense must include restitution for any damage to the property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

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

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Iowa

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 27 Jan 2021.

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

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Kentucky

SB 44: Heightened penalties for riot offenses and new legal justification for those who violently defend themselves or others during a riot

Would enhance penalties for offenses committed during a riot. Kentucky law broadly defines "riot" as a group of five or more people who disturb the public by "tumultuous and violent conduct" that creates "grave danger" of property damage or injury, or "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function." Under the bill, someone charged with any offense during a riot may not be released for at least 48 hours after their arrest. If the person is convicted of the offense, the bill requires increased fines, restitution, and mandatory jail time if the person was near the riot and knew that it was occurring when they committed the offense. Resisting arrest, usually a misdemeanor offense, is a Class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison if it occurs during a riot. The bill likewise intensifies penalties for blocking traffic, from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class D felony if it occurs during a "riot." The bill would in certain cases bar 24-hour protests on government property, such as the grounds of a statehouse, by making it a Class A misdemeanor to "camp" on such property during a riot or within a day after a riot. "Camping" is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes placing or sitting on a chair or other furniture. The second or subsequent offense of unlawful camping is a Class D felony. The bill amends Kentuckys stand your ground law, establishing a legal justification for using deadly or other violent force in self-defense or defense of others during a riot. The bill would create a new presumption that if someone uses defensive force intended to cause death or significant bodily harm during the course of a riot, that they had a reasonable fear of death or harm to themselves or someone else. The bill does not require that the object of the violence force be actually engaged in the riot. The bill would also allow civil lawsuits against local governments for failure to prevent damage to property, if authorities had reason to believe a "riot" or "tumultuous assemblage" was going to take place and were "grossly negligent" in their response. If enacted, these provisions could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid costly lawsuits. Finally, the bill creates new penaltiesup to 3 months in jailfor someone who accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer using abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language or gestures, if it would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the officer and prevent them from adequately performing his or her duties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference, Camping, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

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Mississippi

HB 24 / HB 613: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTORS WHO INTERFERE WITH TRAFFIC AND A LEGAL SHIELD FOR DRIVERS AND OTHERS WHO INJURE OR KILL PROTESTERS

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as conduct by seven or more assembled people that creates an "immediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services." The offense would be punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vagueness of the definition would allow authorities broad discretion to determine what constitutes, for instance, "creat[ing] an immediate danger" of property damage or injury. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and sidewalks, including a felony offense for "interfering with the regular flow of vehicular traffic" during a "violent or disorderly assembly." Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who "obstructs or interferes with" traffic during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly" is not criminally or civilly liable, as long as the driver did not do so "intentionally." The bill strips unemployment assistance from any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a number of protest-related offenses, including "violent or disorderly assembly," and requires that government employees found guilty of violating any of the bill's provisions be fired from their positions. The bill precludes civil lawsuits against the state by anyone convicted of "unlawfully participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience," if the claim arises out of that conduct. Further, the bill creates a new civil right of action against local governments by any "victim" of "violent or unlawful assembly" or other protest-related offenses, if the local government "failed or was grossly negligent" in policing a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly" - provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute, such that an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. Finally, the bill would amend Mississippi's law on "justifiable homicide," creating a new legal justification for anyone who uses deadly force to "necessarily" defend their business "where there is looting, rioting" or other offenses created under the bill, including the defacing of public property. Identical language was introduced by another House member as HB 613. The text was first introduced as HB 83 in the 2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2022.

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

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New Jersey

A 456 / S 84: 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." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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New York

A 5121 / S 4989: Heightened penalties for "incitement to riot"

Would increase the penalty for incitement to riot from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Under current New York law, a person can be convicted of inciting a riot if "he urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm." The bill does not define what "urges" could include; similar language has been found by courts to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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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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Ohio

HB 22: New penalties for protesters who "taunt" police

Would newly criminalize "taunting" an on-duty law enforcement officer with "reckless disregard" as to whether the taunting diverts the officer's attention. The bill does not define "taunt," and as such the offense could cover protected speech and chanting by protesters that even momentarily distracts law enforcement. Penalties for the offense, which the bill would include under the crime of "obstructing justice," range from 90 days in jail and a $750 fine, to more serious felony penalties. Note: Later amendments removed the "taunting" provision from the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2021; Approved by House 25 June 2021

Issue(s): Police Response, Riot

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Ohio

SB 41: Charging protesters for the cost of property damage and the cost of law enforcement to respond to a protest

Would require that anyone convicted of "riot" or "aggravated riot" pay restitution for any property damage in addition to other penalties imposed. Additionally, the bill would allow law enforcement and other public agencies to seek reimbursement from a protester for all costs the agency incurred in responding to a "potential serious threat to public safety"defined to include a "validated report" report that two or more people are committing vandalism, "criminal mischief," or "aggravated riot." The agency could seek court-ordered reimbursement from anyone convicted of committing any misdemeanor or felony offense "in connection with" a "potential serious threat to public safety." In other words, the bill would allow a police department to seek compensation from a protester who was convicted of a simple misdemeanor, for the time spent by officers in responding to a report of "aggravated riot," even if no "aggravated riot" occurred. The bill would also create a new felony offense for vandalism on government property. Under the bill, intentionally "defacing, painting" or otherwise "marking upon" property owned, leased, or controlled by the government, even if only in a temporary manner, is a fifth degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Finally, the bill makes planning or "aiding in planning" vandalism of government property a new conspiracy offense" a first degree misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Security Costs, Riot

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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

**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 1565: Mandatory dismissal of state employees convicted of protest offenses

The bill requires that employees of the state who are convicted of "incitement to riot" or "unlawful assembly" must be terminated from their job, and barred from future employment with any government entity. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Oklahoma

HB 1578: New penalties for vandalism and "annoying" or "alarming" conduct during a "riot"

Would create a new felony offense for participating in a "riot" and "vandalizing" or "defacing" any structure owned by a government entity. The offense is punishable by at least 2 and up to 10 years in prison. The bill does not define "vandalize" or "deface." The bill also creates a new misdemeanor offense for intentionally causing "annoyance" or "alarm" at a public accommodation, during a "riot," through "tumultuous" or "threatening" behavior or "abusive language." The offense is punishable by a minimum of one year in jail. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Tennessee

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

Would expand the definition of aggravated riot and create new mandatory minimum penalties for that offense. To be convicted of riot under current 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 current law, a person commits aggravated riot if they participate in a riot and someone is injured or substantial property damage occurs, even if the person did not commit any violence or intend violence to occur. Under the proposed bill, a person would also be guilty of aggravated riot if they participate 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 bill 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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Virginia

SB 531: New penalties for highway protests, and new legal defense for individuals who injure or kill riot participants

Would heighten the penalty for protestors who demonstrate on highways, by creating a new Class 1 misdemeanor offense for anyone who maliciously obstructs the normal use of a highway by standing or remaining on it or otherwise "hindering" its use. The offense would be punishable by up to a year in jail and $2,500. Under the bill, a person being civilly sued for wrongful death, injury, or property damage could newly assert an affirmative defense that the injury or damage was sustained by someone participating in a riot. The bill also creates a civil action against government officials for damages caused during a riot or unlawful assembly, if the officials prohibit law enforcement officers from taking action that would have prevent[ed] or materially mitigate[d] injuries or property damage caused by or related to a riot or unlawful assembly. Such provisions could encourage authorities to allow overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests, in order to avoid costly lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Jan 2022.

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

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Wisconsin

SB 296 / AB 279: Broad new definition of "riot"

Would newly define "riot" under Wisconsin law such that peaceful protesters could face steep penalties. Currently, Wisconsin law broadly defines an "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people who cause a "disturbance of public order" and make it "reasonable to believe" the group will damage property or people; the definition specifically includes a group of three or more who assemble to block a street or building entrance. Under the bill, an "unlawful assembly" in which at least one person commits an "act of violence" that creates a "clear and present danger" of property damage or injury; or threatens to commit such an act and has the ability to do so; or commits an "act of violence" that "substantially obstructs" some governmental function, is a "riot." 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. Under the bill, anyone who attends a "riot" or refuses an order to disperse a "riot" commits a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a mandatory 30 days and up to 9 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. If the "riot" results in "substantial" property damage or injury, anyone who attends commits a Class I felony, publishable by up to 3 and a half years in prison. The bill also creates a new Class A misdemeanor for any person who "incites or urges" three or more people to engage in a "riot;" the bill does not define "incite" or "urge." Finally, if a person "obstructs" "any public or private thoroughfare," or any entrance to a public building while participating in a "riot," it is an additional Class A misdemeanor. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 Apr 2021; Approved by the House and Senate on 25 January 2022

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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