S 4825: Penalties for protesters on interstate highways
Would prohibit “deliberately delaying traffic,” “standing or approaching a motor vehicle,” or “endangering the safe movement of a motor vehicle” on an interstate highway “with the intent to obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of the interstate highway.” The new federal offense would be punishable by up to $10,000 and 15 years in prison—a far harsher penalty than is the case under many states' laws, which generally already criminalize walking or standing on the highway. The bill provides an exception for “any lawful activity” authorized by federal, state, or local law. However it could still seemingly cover far more than “blocking” the interstate, including a peaceful protest on the shoulder of an interstate or a convoy-style, driving protest that slowed down traffic. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 13 Sep 2022.
Issue(s): Traffic Interference
A 4577 / S 1783: NEW PENALTIES FOR BLOCKING TRAFFIC AND OTHER PROTEST-ADJACENT CONDUCT
Would make it a felony offense to purposely or recklessly obstruct a public road while engaging in "disorderly conduct" or a "riot," punishable by up to a year and a half in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both "disorderly conduct" and "riot" are defined broadly under New Jersey law: "Disorderly conduct," for instance, could include "recklessly creating a risk of public inconvenience" by causing a "hazardous condition," or using "unreasonably loud and offensively coarse" language in a public place. The bill would also broaden the definition of "riot," such that a group of five or more people who engage in "disorderly conduct" and cause any damage to property or persons could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. Individuals who deface a monument during an unruly protest would also face heightened penalties under the bill: Current law penalizes defacing or damaging any public monument or structure as a disorderly persons offense, subject to six months in jail. The bill would make the same offense a felony punishable by a year and a half in prison and $10,000, if committed during a "riot." The bill would create new sanctions for protest organizers and patrons, as well: Under the bill, a person who "conspires with others as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager to commit" one of a number of crimes during a protest would be guilty of "promotion of violent, disorderly assembly" and face enhanced criminal penalties. The text was introduced as S3261 during the 2020-2021 session. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 22 Sep 2022.
Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference