US Protest Law Tracker

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

45 states have
considered
230 bills
36 enacted 50 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Sep. 3, 2021 (North Carolina), Sep. 1, 2021 (North Carolina), Aug. 13, 2021 (Florida)
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52 entries matching in provided filters in 19 states and 1 federal.
US Federal

HR 289: Stripping Pandemic Aid from Individuals Convicted of "Protest-Related" Federal Crimes

Would withdraw COVID-19 unemployment benefits from and impose new costs on anyone convicted of a federal offense “related to the individual's conduct at and during a protest.” Such a person would be ineligible for federal unemployment aid under the CARES Act (15 U.S.C. 9023) “or any other Federal supplemental unemployment compensation during the COVID-19 public health emergency.” If federal agents were involved in policing the protest at issue, the person who was convicted of a related federal offense would also have to pay the cost of the agents’ policing activity, ”as determined by the court.” Federal offenses include both violations of federal law, and violations of state law that occur on federal property. As such, the bill’s withdrawal of benefits and imposition of new costs could apply to, e.g., a peaceful protester convicted of misdemeanor trespass for refusing to leave a demonstration on the steps of a federal courthouse or a sit-in at a congressional office. This bill is nearly identical to HB 8117 introduced in 2020. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Jan 2021.

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

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Alabama

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

Would expand the definition of "critical infrastructure" under Alabama law to include pipelines and mining operations. Alabama law currently prohibits a person 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 bill 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 bill, 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 bill 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: pending

Introduced 2 Sep 2021; Pre-Filed for the 2022 Legislative Session

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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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 pre-filed bill for the 2022 legislative session 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 28 Jun 2021; Pre-Filed for the 2022 Legislative Session

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

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Florida

HB 11: New Penalties for Disrupting Law Enforcement

Would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to stand within 30 feet of an officer performing a “legal duty” and to “directly or indirectly harass” the officer or “interrupt, disrupt, [or] hinder” them after being warned to not approach, punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. The bill’s language is so vague and broad that it could easily capture peaceful protest activity. For example, if a group of demonstrators were told not to further approach a police line they could face liability even if they obey the order if they remained within 30 feet of an officer and their chanting or sloganeering was deemed to “indirectly harass” the officer. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 19 Jul 2021; Pre-Filed for the 2022 Legislative Session

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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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Illinois

HB 3409: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters at public universities or community colleges in the state. The bill requires these public educational institutions to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction any "protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity." Additionally, the bill requires administrators to suspend for at least one year any student who is twice found to be responsible "for infringing on the expressive rights of others," such as through a protest of a campus speaker. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Indiana

HB 1205: Expanded definition of "riot" and host of new criminal penalties for protesters

Would broaden the definition of "riot" and raise the penalty for riot in certain circumstances. Indiana law defines "rioting" as engaging in "tumultuous conduct" while a member of an "unlawful assembly." The bill expands the definition of "unlawful assembly," to require only 3 people engaged in "tumultuous conduct." The bill also amends the definition of "tumultuous conduct" to include conduct that results or is likely to result in the "obstruction of law enforcement or other governmental function." As a result of these changes, someone in a 3-person, peaceful protest whose conduct is deemed "likely" to interfere with a government hearing, for instance, could be covered by the resulting "riot" statute. The bill also heightens the penalty for "riot" from a Class A misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony, punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, if committed by a person wearing a mask (such as a medical mask) or other face covering. The bill requires a mandatory 30-day sentence and restitution as penalties for all riot offenses. The bill heightens the penalty for "disorderly conduct," a broadly defined offense that includes making "unreasonable noise," if committed by a person in the same area as a "lawful or unlawful demonstration, protest, or assembly." The offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill would heighten the penalty for a person who damages or "defaces" property, as well, from a Class B misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony if committed by someone in the same "area" as a demonstration or protest. "Defaces" is not defined, and could include chalk and other temporary markings applied in the course of a protest. The bill also bars 24-hour protests on the grounds outside the state capitol, by making it a class A misdemeanor to"camp" in a number of places around the capitol building after being informed that camping is not allowed, either by signage or in person. "Camping" is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes laying down a blanket or using a piece of furniture. The bill would allow the state to seize any property that was used "to finance or facilitate the financing of a crime committed by a person while in an area where a lawful or unlawful demonstration, protest, or assembly was taking place." Finally, the bill would newly allow tort claims against government entities and officials for the failure to enforce the law "in connection with an unlawful assembly," if the failure constitutes "gross negligence"; provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Camping, State Liability

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Indiana

SB 198: New penalties for funding protests, failing to leave an "unlawful assembly," and violating protest-related curfew

Would create a new Class A misdemeanor, "financing an unlawful assembly," punishable by up to one year in jail, for a person who gives funding or "anything of value" to another person, knowing that they intend to commit an offense while part of an "unlawful assembly" and intending to aid them. The offense is a Level 6 felony if the person provides funding for five or more people, and a Level 5 felony if the person provides funding for 10 or more people. Indiana law broadly defines "unlawful assembly" as an assembly of five or more persons whose common object is to commit an unlawful act, or a lawful act by unlawful means. A donor who provides funding or supplies to a group knowing that they intend to commit civil disobedience as part of an "unlawful assembly," could face felony charges and up to six years in prison. The bill also authorizes the government to seize property that is used to finance or "facilitate" the financing of a crime committed by a person while part of an "unlawful assembly." The bill creates a new Class B misdemeanor offense, "enabling riot," for anyone who is present during the commission of a felony by a participant in an "unlawful assembly," and who knows that the participant is committing a criminal offense, and fails to "immediately" either leave the location or report the offense to law enforcement. A journalist, for instance, who stays at the scene of a protest that is deemed an "unlawful assembly," and does not immediately report unlawful behavior could face six months in jail for "enabling riot." The bill newly authorizes the head of a county or city to declare a curfew upon receiving information about the "likelihood" of a "riot" or "unlawful assembly," and creates a new Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, for failure to abide by curfew orders. The bill expands the attorney general's concurrent jurisdiction with the prosecuting attorney to include prosecutions of any "criminal offense" committed by members of an "unlawful assembly." As a result, the Indiana attorney general would be able to bring charges against protesters if the relevant local prosecutor declined to do so. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 16 February 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot

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Indiana

SB 34: New penalties for unpermitted protests that block traffic, unlawful assemblies, and "riot" offenses

Would increase the penalty for obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic to a level 5 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, if committed by "a person participating in a protest or demonstration" that is not authorized by a permit. The bill also newly penalizes as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, participants in an unlawful assembly in a place of public accommodation who make unreasonable noise and continue to do so after being asked to stop, or who disrupt a lawful gathering of persons. The bill enables the government to seize any "real or personal property" that is used to finance or facilitate a crime "including minor violations" committed by a person who is part of an unlawful assembly. It strips immunity from government officials who "fail to enforce the law in connection with an unlawful assembly, if the failure to enforce the law constitutes gross negligence," opening up government officials to civil suits if they do not aggressively police protests. The bill bans a person convicted of rioting from holding state government employment, including elected office, and bars a person convicted of rioting from receiving a broad range of state and local benefits, including healthcare and educational benefits. Rioting in Indiana is defined broadly as a person who, as part of an unlawful assembly, recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engages in "tumultuous" conduct. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2021.

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

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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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Iowa

HF 430: Heightened penalties for protesters who block streets and sidewalks

Would raise the penalty for protesters who obstruct 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. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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Massachusetts

HB 1586: 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 near identical to HB 1428 introduced in 2019. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Minnesota

HF 1967 / SF 1285: New Penalties for Protesters Who Block Traffic

Would heighten penalties for protesters who intentionally disrupt traffic on a freeway or a roadway on airport property. Like HF 390, introduced in the 2019-2020 session, HF 1967 provides that intentional traffic disruption on freeways or airport roadways would be a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. HF 303, also introduced in 2021, shares the same language as HF 1967. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Minnesota

HB 1558: New penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines

Would create joint and several liability for any person or entity that knowingly aids, advises, counsels, or conspires with a person who trespasses on critical infrastructure property. The bill would also create strict liability for any damages caused by a person who trespasses on critical infrastructure property. The bill would also create a felony offense, punishable by up to 3 years and a fine of $5,000, for a person that trespasses on critical infrastructure with the intent to impede or inhibit its operation. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 25 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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Minnesota

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

Would create new civil and criminal liability for protesters on pipeline property as well as civil liability for any organization or entity that supports them. Like SF 3230/ HF 2966, introduced during the 2019-2020 session, the bill would make someone who trespasses on property containing a pipeline or other "critical public service facility" liable for any damages to property that they commit while trespassing. Any person or entity that "knowingly recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, [or] conspires with" someone who trespasses or causes damage to property could be held "jointly and severably liable." If the person trespasses with intent "to significantly impede or inhibit operation" of a covered facility, utility, or pipeline they are guilty of a felony and may be subject to three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. The phrase "significantly impede or inhibit" could be construed to encompass peaceful protests that block access to infrastructure, which under Minnesota law is broadly defined to include bus stations and parts of bridges. The broad language used in the joint and severable liability provisions could be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Minnesota

HF 466 / SF 2381: 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. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Limit on Public Benefits

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Minnesota

HF 254 / SF 386: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near pipelines, utilities, and "critical public service facilities." Like HF 2441, which was introduced in the 2019-2020 session, HF 254 criminalizes trespass onto such properties, including those under construction, as a gross misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Trespass "with the intent to disrupt the operation or provision of services" by the pipeline or utility, is a felony under the bill, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill also newly provides that a court may order anyone convicted of the above offenses to pay for "the costs and expenses resulting from the crime." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

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

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Minnesota

HF 129 / SF 1378: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR GAS AND OIL PIPELINES

Would create new civil and criminal liability for protesters on infrastructure property as well as for any organization or entity that supports them. Like HF 3668, introduced in the 2019-2020 session, HF 129 would make someone who is convicted of or merely arrested for trespassing on property containing a critical public service facility, utility, or pipeline, civilly liable for any property damage arising out of the trespass. Under the bill, a person "or entity" that "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" someone who is convicted of or arrested for trespassing is also civilly liable for damages. The bill creates criminal liability for anyone who "intentionally recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" someone to trespass, as well: If the person or entity fails to make a "reasonable effort" to prevent the trespass, and the offense is committed, they are guilty of a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The broad language used in the vicarious liability provisions could be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 Jan 2021.

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

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Nebraska

LB 111: Broad new penalties for "riot"-related offenses and disruptive protests

The bill would create a sweeping new "riot" offense, with steep penalties for participating in, organizing, advocating for, or assisting a riot. The bill defines "riot" as a group of three or more whose "tumultuous and violent conduct" creates "grave danger" of property damage or serious injury, or "substantially obstructs law enforcement or another governmental function." The bill prohibits "participation" in a riot, which includes not only joining a riot, but "aiding and abetting" a riot, or "refusing any lawful order" by law enforcement. It is likewise prohibited under the bill to "advocate for or urge or organize" a riot. If the riot results in serious bodily injury or property damage, a person can be charged with a Class IV felony for the above offenses, regardless of whether the person had any role in the injury or damage, and sentenced to up to two years in prison. In all other cases the offenses are Class I misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill precludes bail for any one charged with "any crime" arising out of a riot. The bill also affects protests on streets and sidewalks, as it creates a new offense for any person who intentionally or recklessly obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk, aisle, hallway, or any other "public way," whether on their own or with others. "Obstruct" is defined as rendering the public way "impassable" or "unreasonably inconvenient." The offense, which could cover peaceful protests that take place on or spill over onto sidewalks and streets, would be a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill would also make it unlawful to intentionally and substantially "obstruct or interfere with" a "lawful meeting, procession, or gathering." The offense, which would presumably cover peaceful but disruptive protests at e.g. government hearings, would be a Class II misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. Finally, the bill also creates new Class 1 misdemeanor offenses for "unauthorized application of graffiti" on state property, where "graffiti" is defined broadly enough to encompass chalk and other temporary markings applied as part of a peaceful protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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New Hampshire

HB 197: Legal defense for the use of deadly force against protesters

Would create a new legal justification for using deadly force against protesters. As introduced, the bill would expand New Hampshire's self-defense statutes to justify a person's use of deadly force against someone who they believe is "likely" to use "any unlawful force" while committing a "riot" against someone in a vehicle, house, or curtilage. The introduced bill justifies deadly force against someone who is "likely" to use "any" amount of force while committing "riot"--including against a third party. If enacted as introduced, the bill is likely to encourage violent and even lethal conflict in the context of protests. **Note: The bill was amended prior to its passage by the House, extending the self-defense justification to instances where deadly force against someone likely to use "any unlawful force in the commission of a felony," rather than a "riot".** (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Jan 2021; Approved by House 25 February 2021

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

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New Jersey

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 24 Jun 2021.

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

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New Jersey

S 3261: 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. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 10 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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New Jersey

A 4991: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic, riot, disorderly conduct, and related offenses

Would create a new offense for blocking a highway or any "other public passage" in the course of a riot or disorderly conduct. The offense would be a fourth-degree crime, punishable by 1.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (Under current law, blocking a highway or any other passage is a petty disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 6 months in jail.) The bill would also create a new offense for disorderly conduct committed during a riot in a "place of public accommodation." The offense would also be a fourth-degree crime. The bill would create a new offense for "desecration of venerable objects" during a riot--also a fourth-degree crime. "Venerable objects" includes "any public monument, insignia, symbol, or structure," and "desecrate" includes "defacing" as well as "toppling." New Jersey currently defines "riot" as participation in disorderly conduct by a group of five or more people with an unlawful purpose. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Nov 2020.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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New Jersey

A 3760: Expanded definition of "riot"

Would expand the definition of "riot" to apply to individuals in a group whose disorderly conduct results in property damage. Under the bill, anyone who participates in "disorderly conduct" in a group of four or more may be charged with rioting, if anyone in the group causes any damage to property or other monetary loss. "Disorderly conduct" is broadly defined under New Jersey law, to include any "tumultuous behavior" that causes public annoyance-even swearing loudly. If the damage caused by anyone in the group costs $2,000 or more, anyone in the group can be charged with a third-degree crime, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. According to the bill, individuals convicted under the riot provisions related to property damage must also reimburse the property owner or State of New Jersey for the damages or loss incurred. The same bill was initially introduced in May 2017 as AB 4777, and again in 2018 as AB 2853. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Mar 2020.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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New York

A 5121: 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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Ohio

HB 109: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic and other conduct during protests, and new liability for organizations involved in protests

Would heighten potential penalties for protesters who block traffic, by providing that engaging in "disorderly conduct" by blocking a public street or highway is a 3rd degree felony (instead of a minor misdemeanor) if it occurs during a "riot", or during a protest that was not granted a permit or one for which the scope of the permit was exceeded. Existing law defines "disorderly conduct" broadly, as "recklessly caus[ing] inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm," through means including "making unreasonable noise" or "hindering" movement of people on streets. "Riot" is also broadly defined under existing law as participating with four or more people in "disorderly conduct" with an unlawful purpose – to commit a misdemeanor, impede a government function, or interfere with lawful activities at an educational institution. The bill creates a new offense of "harassment in a place of public accommodation," defined as recklessly "harassing" or "intimidating" another at a place of public accommodation while engaged in a "riot". The offense is a 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill creates a new offense for "riot vandalism," for "recklessly" causing physical harm to property that is owned or leased by a government entity, or that is a monument, tomb, or "similar structure." The new offense is a 5th degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. The bill also provides that someone who causes any property damage or injury while committing "riot" is guilty of a 4th degree felony (instead of a 1st degree misdemeanor), punishable by a year and a half in prison and a $5,000 fine. The bill would introduce new potential felony penalties and civil liability for individuals and organizations involved in funding or organizing protests that are deemed "riots". Under the bill, an organization whose associates engage in, attempt, or conspire to engage in providing "material support" to another to "plan, prepare, carry out, or aid" a "riot," or to "organize[] persons" to engage in a "riot," would be committing "corrupt activity," which could trigger 2nd degree felony charges, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The organization could also be liable for property damage that resulted and the cost of law enforcement involved in investigating and prosecuting the offense. These provisions could affect organizations that are even tangentially involved in protest activity. Finally, the bill would allow police to sue individuals for injury or property loss resulting from the individual's role in an "unlawful assembly" or "riot". Organizations that provide "material support" to the individuals would also be civilly liable, for treble damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Feb 2021.

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

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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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Ohio

SB 16: New penalties for protesters who block traffic, and for protest funders and organizers

Would create new penalties for protests that took place on or spilled onto streets, sidewalks, or any other "public passage." The bill provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months year in jail and a $1,000 fine, to "impede" or render any public passage "impassable without unreasonable inconvenience" after being asked by an authority to stop. If the offense occurs as part of a "riot," it is a fifth degree felony, punishable by one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Ohio law defines "riot" to include engaging in "disorderly conduct" with four or more persons with the purpose of committing a misdemeanor, or to "hinder, impede, or obstruct a function of government" a definition broad enough to cover peaceful protests. The bill would also introduce new potential felony penalties and civil liability for individuals and organizations involved in funding or organizing protests that are deemed "riots." Under the bill, an organization whose associates engage in, attempt, or conspire to engage in providing "material support" to another to "plan, prepare, carry out, or aid" a "riot," or to "organize[] persons" to engage in a "riot," would be committing "corrupt activity," which could trigger second class felony charges, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The organization could also be liable for property damage that resulted and the cost of law enforcement involved in investigating and prosecuting the offense. These provisions could affect organizations that are even tangentially involved in protest activity, as "material support" could cover donor funding to advocacy groups that engage in protests, or trainings for activists about peaceful protest tactics. Note: The version of the bill that passed the Senate removed the "material support" provisions and changed the obstruction of a public passage provision to require that the obstruction prevents an emergency vehicle from accessing a street and those obstructing the public passage have received and refused to obey a request to move. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 2 June 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

SB 560: Immunity for drivers who hit protesters

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

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021; Passed Senate 8 March 2021

Issue(s): Driver Immunity

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Oklahoma

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

HB 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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Oklahoma

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

Would add "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" could 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: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021; Approved by House 8 March 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy

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Oklahoma

HB 1822: Restrictions on protests near the State Capitol

Would introduce new restrictions on "all demonstrations or events" in and around the buildings and grounds that make up Oklahoma's State Capitol Park complex, including the Capitol building itself. Within that zone, the bill prohibits "assembling" or "congregating" in a way that "obstruct[s]" sidewalks, walkways, or entrances or exits to buildings. This prohibition could be implemented to effectively bar protests that take place on or spill onto sidewalks or take place near any building entrances. The bill also prohibits the placement of tents or sleeping materials for the purpose remaining overnight. This would bar protesters from holding vigils and other 24-hour protests on Capitol grounds. The bill also prohibits affixing signs to any tree or structure; this would presumably include even protest signage that is affixed temporarily. Violation of the bill's prohibitions would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021; Approved by House 8 March 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference, Camping

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Oklahoma

HB 2094: Allowing lawsuits against the state for failure to aggressively respond to protests

Would waive the state's immunity from civil lawsuits for damage caused by protests in certain cases. Under the bill, the state and its subdivisions would be liable to claims for damages if they failed to take "reasonable action" to mitigate damage or injury resulting from a "riot" or "civil disobedience," or made a decision or established a policy "to allow" civil disobedience and riots. If enacted, the bill could encourage state and local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests and acts of civil disobedience, in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, State Liability

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Oklahoma

HB 2096: Steep penalties for vandalism of public property during a protest

Would create a new offense that could cover nondestructive acts of expression during protests. The bill provides that anyone who participated in a "riot" and willfully "vandalized or defaced" a government-owned structure or building, is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." "Vandalize" and "deface" are not defined, and could cover chalk drawings or artwork posted with temporary adhesive. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Oklahoma

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

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

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Oklahoma

HB 2464: Heightened penalties for protests that block traffic

Would create a new felony offense for anyone who participates in a "riot" and intentionally "obstructs" traffic. The bill does not define "obstruct," nor does it limit the locations where such obstruction might take place. According to the bill, an individual in a protest that is deemed a "riot" who pauses traffic on a private road or in a public parking lot could be guilty of a felony and face up to 5 years in prison. "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 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

SB 806: New penalties for protests that block traffic and organizations that support unlawful protests

Would newly add "riot" and "unlawful assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Oklahom's RICO statute. "Racketeering" includes attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation. As such, under the bill, an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with others to engage in a protest that is deemed a "riot" or "unlawful assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO. Violations under the RICO statute are a felony, punishable by at least 10 years in prison and a steep fine. This provision would likely discourage non-profit organizations among others from engaging with or supporting protest organizers or participants, out of concern that they could be caught up in a RICO prosecution. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor to "block" or "restrict" traffic on any public highway or street "as a result of a riot" or "unlawful assembly." The offense would be punishable by up to one year in jail, a $500 fine, at least 40 hours of community service, and restitution for any property damage. The bill would also require that anyone convicted of participation in a "riot," "rout," or "unlawful assembly" pay restitution for any property damage resulting from the offense, and perform at least 40 hours of community service. The new penalties would apply to individuals who remained at the scene after being lawfully warned to disperse, and those who continued to participate when a lawful assembly became a "riot." "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force;" "unlawful assembly" is likewise broadly defined, and includes a group of three or more who gather without lawful authority in a manner "as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 8 March 2021

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

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Oklahoma

SB 15: Mandatory restitution for property damage during unlawful assembly or riot

Would require courts to order individuals convicted of participation in a riot, incitement to riot, or participation in an unlawful assembly to pay restitution for any property damage or loss caused by the offense. Under the bill's provisions, individuals could be ordered to pay for damage that they did not personally cause, if a gathering they were part of was declared unlawful or a riot. Oklahoma law also broadly defines "riot" and "unlawful assembly," for instance giving broad discretion to authorities to label as an "unlawful assembly" a group of four or more people who gather without a permit "in such a manner as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Nov 2020.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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South Carolina

HB 3491: New penalties for protesters, and a shield for those who commit violence against them

Would create new penalties for offenses that could encompass conduct by peaceful protesters. The bill newly criminalizes the blocking of a street, sidewalk, or "any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances." Accordingly, protesters who obstruct or make it "unreasonably inconvenient" to use a street or sidewalk could face up to three years in jail. The bill also targets protest encampments on the grounds outside government buildings, by broadly defining "camping," and prohibiting camping on state property that is not designated for camping. As such, protesters who use any "piece of furniture" or erect tarps or other shelters on state property could be charged with a felony, if they continue to do so 24 hours after receiving a warning. The bill amends South Carolina's law on "rioting" to require that anyone convicted of rioting - including "by being personally present [at], or by instigating, promoting, or aiding" a riot - be ordered to pay restitution "for any property damage or loss incurred as a result." Protesters could thus be liable for property damage that they did not cause, but were "present" for. Finally, the bill would create new criminal and civil immunity for a person who uses deadly force or points a firearm when "confronted by a mob," where "mob" is broadly defined. The provision may encourage the use of force and the incidence of violent confrontations in the context of protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Dec 2020.

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

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Tennessee

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Texas

HB 3599: New potential felony penalties for "terroristic" protests

Would create a new felony offense, "threatened terroristic violence," that could cover peaceful protesters. Under the bill, a person commits the offense if she "threatens to commit" any crime involving violence to property or persons, with a particular intent, including the intent to "influence the conduct or activities" of a government entity. Without a requirement that the "threat" convey a serious intention to imminently commit an unlawful act of violence, the offense could cover protected speech by peaceful protesters who are seeking policy change or other governmental redress. The offense would be a third degree felony, punishable by at least 2 and up to 10 years in prison. The bill incorporates the offense into other parts of Texas law as well, including the Education Code, creating the potential for student protesters to face disciplinary action based on their commission in protest activity deemed to be a "threatened terroristic violence." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 10 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech, Terrorism

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Texas

HB 2747: Heightened penalties for "riot"

Would make knowingly participating in a "riot" a state jail felony, rather than a Class B misdemeanor. "Riot" is defined under current law as a gathering of at least seven people "resulting in conduct" that either creates a danger of property damage or injury, "substantially obstructs" a government function or services, or deprives or disturbs someone in their enjoyment of a legal right. As such, an individual may be guilty of participating in a "riot" without actually engaging in or even intending any destructive or disruptive conduct. A state jail felony is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Texas

SB 912 / HB 3652: New restitution penalty for those convicted of "riot"

Would require a person convicted of participation in a "riot" to pay restitution for "any damage to or loss" of property by reimbursing the property owner. The bill does not limit the restitution to damage directly caused by the defendant. As a result, a peaceful protester could be forced to pay to replace or restore property that was damaged by someone else in a large protest that authorities deemed a "riot." Current Texas law broadly defines a "riot" as a gathering of at least seven people "resulting in conduct" that either creates a danger of property damage or injury, "substantially obstructs" a government function or services, or deprives or disturbs someone in their enjoyment of a legal right. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Mar 2021; Approved by Senate 27 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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Texas

HB 2461: Heightened penalties for "riot"-related offenses

Would elevate the penalty for certain offenses, including "criminal trespass" or "criminal mischief," if an individual who committed the offenses was also participating in a "riot" at the time. Current Texas law defines "riot" such that an individual may be guilty of participating in a "riot" without individually engaging in or even intending any destructive or disruptive conduct. As a result, under the bill, a peaceful protester who trespasses onto government or private property, or who "makes markings, including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings" on the property of another, could face a felony sentence rather than a Class A misdemeanor. The bill also provides that individuals charged with "riot" and those whom a police officer attests were engaged in "riot" (even if they were not charged with that offence) may not be released on bail except in the discretion of the court hearing their case. Such individuals would be lumped together with those charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault, and other severe crimes, who are currently subject to the same limitation. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Trespass

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Texas

HB 2150: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would increase the penalty for knowingly or recklessly obstructing a sidewalk, street, or highway, or an entrance or hallway to a building that the public has access to, from a Class B misdemeanor to a felony in the third degree, punishable by two to ten years in jail. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 23 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Washington

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Washington

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Jan 2021.

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

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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.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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