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 51 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)
Filter by:
Locations
Status
Issues
Date
Type

Locations

Status

Issues

Introduction Date

from

to

Type

or
X

4 entries matching in provided filters in 4 states.
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

return to map
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

return to map
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

return to map
North Carolina

HB 805: Heightened penalties for "riot" and related offenses

Would increase the penalty for an individual who engages in a "riot" if, "as a result of the riot," there is over $1,500 of property damage or serious bodily injury. Under this definition, the individual could be convicted of a Class F felony without having any role in property damage or injury. The bill increases the potential prison sentence from 25 months to 41 months. North Carolina law defines riot to include a "public disturbance" by a group of three or more people that presents an "imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct," resulting in a "clear and present danger" of property damage or injury. In other words, no violence or damage need occur for participants in a gathering to be arrested for and charged with "riot." The bill also increases the penalty for an individual who "incites or urges another to engage in a riot," to a Class A1 misdemeanor, punishable by 5 months in jail, if a riot actually occurs or a "clear and present danger of a riot is created." If the riot does occur and results in $1,500 of property damage or injury (again, regardless of the individual's role), the individual is guilty of a Class E felony, punishable by up to 63 months in jail. Under the bill, an individual convicted of "riot" or incitement offenses is also liable to anyone whose property or person was damaged by the riot, in the amount of three times the actual damage in addition to court costs and attorney"s fees. Finally, the bill requires that a judge, rather than another judicial official, determine the pretrial release of an individual charged with a riot offense. The judge may hold the individual for 48 hours, and may require that they stay away from places where the "riot" occurred. Note that a later version of this bill amended the language so that to be convicted of Class F felony rioting one personally would need to cause property damage of over $1,500 or serious bodily injury. However, one could still be civilly liable for property damage or injury one did not cause. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 May 2021; Approved by House 10 May 2021; Approved by Senate 31 August 2021; Governor Veto 10 September 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

return to map

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