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
231 bills
36 enacted 52 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Sep. 7, 2021 (Alaska), Sep. 3, 2021 (North Carolina), Sep. 1, 2021 (North Carolina)
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8 entries matching in provided filters in 1 states.
Kentucky

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

Would create new potential criminal and civil penalties for protests around oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. Like HB 238, introduced in the 2019 session, HB 44 amends the definition of "key infrastructure assets" under Kentucky law to include "natural gas or petroleum pipelines." Encompassed facilities and properties designated "key infrastructure assets" are not limited to areas that are fenced off or posted by "no entry" signs. Trespass onto "key infrastructure assets" is a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense (up to three months in jail) and a Class A misdemeanor for subsequent offenses (up to one year in jail). As introduced, the bill created a new offense for for a person who "intentionally or wantonly... tampers with, impedes, or inhibits operations of a key infrastructure asset." This conduct would comprise "criminal mischief in the first degree"--a Class D felony, which under Kentucky law can be punished by up to five years in prison. A protest that "impede" access to a pipeline by blocking a road, or one that "inhibited" the operation of a pipeline by blocking pipeline construction, could presumably fall under this definition. The introduced bill also provided that any "person" (which under Kentucky law could include an organization) may be civilly liable if they "knowingly compensate[] or remunerate[]" another person to commit criminal mischief on a key infrastructure asset. The damages include actual damages to personal or real property "caused by the crime" as well as punitive damages, court costs, and attorney's fees.

**An amendment removed the language penalizing activity that "impeded" or "inhibited" operations of infrastructure like a pipeline. The enrolled version instead penalizes "tamper[ing] with the operations of a key infrastructure asset... in a manner that renders the operations harmful or dangerous." The amendment also narrowed vicarious civil liability anyone who "knowingly directs or causes a person" to commit the tampering offense.** (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

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

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Kentucky

HB 546: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic, disrupt meetings, or participate in a "riot"

Would increase the penalty for obstructing a highway or public passage to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. If the obstruction prevents an emergency vehicle from accessing a street or access to an emergency exit it is a class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. The bill increases the penalty for disrupting a meeting, including by making "any utterance, gesture, or display designed to outrage the sensibilities of the group," to a Class A misdemeanor. The bill also creates a mandatory minimum sentence of thirty days in jail for someone who knowingly participates in a "riot." A "riot" in Kentucky is defined as a group of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct create a grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or obstructs law enforcement. As such, a person could face a mandatory sentence even if they did not engage in violence themselves, no one was injured, and no substantial property damage occurred. Under the bill, there is a presumption that a person shall not be released from custody for at least 12 hours if they have been charged with obstructing a highway or public passage, disrupting a meeting, or participating in a "riot." This provides police and prosecutors wide discretion to detain protesters even if they have not been charged with any violence or convicted of any crime. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 23 Feb 2021; Expired with end of 2021 session

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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Kentucky

SB 211: Mandatory minimum penalties for numerous offenses associated with protests, and a ban on "camping" on state property

Would create mandatory penalties for participation in a "riot" and "incitement to riot," including mandatory minimum prison sentences without parole or probation, a fine of $500-$5,000, and disqualification from public assistance benefits for 6 months to a year. 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." The bill intensifies penalties for blocking traffic if it takes place during a "riot," providing that intentionally making a road or highway impassable or "prevent[ing] law enforcement officers from accessing an assembly, protest, demonstration, or other gathering" is a Class D felony if it occurs during a "riot;" the bill requires as punishment a minimum mandatory sentence of 4 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and disqualification from public benefits for one year. The bill newly criminalizes using "offensive or derisive words" to "taunt[]" or "insult[]" a law enforcement officer. The bill also provides heightened penalties and mandatory minimum sentences for the offenses of resisting arrest, obstructing emergency responders, and failure to disperse, if they are committed during a "riot." The bill bars 24-hour protests on certain state property, by making it a Class A misdemeanor to "camp" on state property that is not specifically designated for camping. "Camping" is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes laying down a blanket or using a piece of furniture. If "camping" occurs during a "riot," the bill requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months in jail without parole or probation, a $500 fine, and disqualification from public benefits for 6 months. The second or subsequent offense is a Class D felony, subject to a minimum sentence of 4 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and disqualification from public benefits for one year. The bill prohibits granting bail for at least 48 hours to anyone arrested of offenses including camping on state property, criminal mischief, obstructing an emergency responder, riot, and incitement to riot. The bill establishes a new legal justification for using lethal force during protests, creating a presumption that a person who uses force in self-defense had a "reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm" if they acted during a "riot." Finally, the bill would allow civil lawsuits against the government for failure to prevent damage to property, if authorities had "notice or good reason to believe" that 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. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 11 March 2021; Expired with end of 2021 session

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference, Camping, State Liability, Stand Your Ground, Limit on Public Benefits

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Kentucky

HB 164: New penalties for protests that disrupt lawful meetings, block traffic, occur overnight on state property, and for "riot" offenses

Would raise penalties for protests that disrupt or offend meetings of public officials. The penalty for "disrupting a meeting" is increased to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if a person did "any act" "tending to obstruct" a lawful meeting, or made "any utterance, gesture, or display designed to outrage the sensibilities of the group." Protests that block streets would face higher penalties as well: Obstructing any "public passage" is raised to a Class A misdemeanor; it is raised to a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, if it prevents an "emergency vehicle," defined as any government or public service vehicle responding to an emergency, from accessing a street. The bill also bars 24-hour protests on certain state property, by making it a Class D felony to "camp" on state property that is not specifically designated for camping. "Camping" is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes laying down a blanket or using a piece of furniture. The bill would impose mandatory minimum sentences of 30-45 days for individuals convicted of riot offenses. Kentucky law defines "riot" as a group of five or more that creates a danger of property damage or personal injury, or that substantially obstructs law enforcement or another government function, through violent and tumultuous conduct. The bill would also require that courts order full restitution "for any pecuniary loss" in riot convictions. The provision does not require that an individual convicted be ordered to pay restitution only for "pecuniary loss" that they were directly responsible for. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 Jan 2021; Expired with end of 2021 session

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

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Kentucky

HB 238: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Would create new potential criminal and civil penalties for protests around oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. The bill expands the definition of "key infrastructure assets" to include "natural gas or petroleum pipelines and related facilities." Encompassed facilities and properties designated "key infrastructure assets" are not limited to areas that are fenced off or posted by "no entry" signs. Under the bill, a person who "intentionally" vandalizes, defaces, or impedes or inhibits key infrastructure is guilty of "trespass upon key infrastructure assets in the first degree." It is unclear whether a protest that "impeded" access to a pipeline by blocking a road, or one that "inhibited" the operation of a pipeline by blocking pipeline construction or repair equipment, would fall under this definition. The offense is categorized as a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill also provides that an individual convicted of the offense may be civilly liable for "any damages to personal or real property while trespassing." Finally, the bill provides that a person or "entity" that "compensates or remunerates a person for trespassing" may be held liable for damages, as well. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 Feb 2019; Approved by House 26 February 2019

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Kentucky

HB 53: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate all liability for drivers who injure or kill a protester who is blocking traffic. The bill creates a new Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, for interfering with traffic on a public road during a protest for which a permit has not been granted. Under the bill, a motorist who injures or kills an individual who is interfering with traffic during such an event cannot be held criminally or civilly liable, unless the action was intentional. The bill, prefiled as BR 305 on October 24, 2017, also prohibits the wearing of face coverings and bearing of weapons near a public protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Jan 2018.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Face Covering

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Kentucky

BR 175: Criminalizing face coverings and weapons near protests

Would create new penalties for wearing masks or protective gear, or carrying a weapon near a public protest. According to the prefiled bill, an individual within 500 feet of a protest may not wear a mask, hood, helmet, or other facade that "covers any portion of his or her face." Likewise, individuals within 500 feet of a protest may not wear protective gear such as shields or armor, nor carry a deadly or dangerous weapon. Under the bill, commission of either act comprises "disruption of a public protest," punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with up to twelve months in jail and a $500 fine. BR 175 was ultimately withdrawn, but its provisions on "disruption of a public protest" were included in HB 53 at the beginning of the 2018 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Aug 2017.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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Kentucky

HB 488: Harsh penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would make it a class D felony to wear a mask, hood, or other device to conceal one's identity at a public protest, demonstration, or march in order to escape recognition when committing a crime. As such, a protester wearing a mask who committed a relatively minor crime, such as traffic interference, could face this offense, which is punishable by a minimum of one year and up to to five years in jail. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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