US Protest Law Tracker

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

45 states have
considered
241 bills
36 enacted 48 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jan. 26, 2022 (Wisconsin), Jan. 25, 2022 (Mississippi), Jan. 24, 2022 (Alabama, Illinois, Virginia)
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20 entries matching in provided filters in 3 states. Clear all filters
Louisiana

HB 727: Heightened penalties for protesting near a pipeline

Targets protests around gas and oil pipelines by expanding the definition of "critical infrastructure" and providing for the offense of "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure." Under the law, "critical infrastructure" is amended to include "pipelines," "any site where the construction or improvement of [pipelines or any other listed infrastructure facility] is taking place," as well as "all structures, equipment, or other immovable or movable property located within or upon" such facilities. Unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure property as defined above is punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $1,000. As originally introduced, the law included a new crime of "conspiracy to engage in unauthorized entry" of a critical infrastructure facility, punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $10,000, such that individuals who only planned to hold a peaceful protest on infrastructure property could be prosecuted. The amended and enacted version of the bill removed the provisions on conspiracy, however. In addition, prior to the law's enactment, provisions were added to mandate that the law would not apply to "[l]awful assembly and peaceful and orderly petition, picketing, or demonstration for the redress of grievances or to express ideas or views regarding legitimate matters of public interest." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 26 Mar 2018; Approved by House 12 April 2018; Approved by the Senate 8 May 2018; Signed into law by Governor Edwards 30 May 2018

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Louisiana

HB 197: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would build on a 2018 law that heightened penalties for protesters near pipelines and other "critical infrastructure"(see HB 727). The bill further expands the definition of "critical infrastructure" to include "water control structures, including floodgates or pump stations." This would expand the universe of places where protesters could face felony charges and 5 years in prison for "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure" e.g. for protests near dams and levees, as well as such structures that are under construction. The bill also provides heightened penalties for "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure" during a state of emergency: Under the bill, if a state of emergency is in effect, unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure (for instance during a peaceful protest) is punishable by at least 3 and up to 15 years imprisonment, along with a fine of $5,000-$10,000. As such, protesters could face even harsher penalties for protesting on infrastructure property or infrastructure construction sites during a state of emergency. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Feb 2020; Approved by House 22 May 2020; Approved by Senate 29 May 2020; Vetoed by Governor Edwards 12 June 2020

Issue(s): Infrastructure, State of Emergency, Trespass

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Louisiana

HB 269: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would have created mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill prohibits "protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity" on college campuses. In addition, the bill requires public colleges to suspend for at least one year or expel any student found responsible for infringing the expressive rights of others, including by protesting. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 30 Mar 2017; Vetoed by Governor Edwards 27 June 2017

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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North Dakota

SB 2044: Heightened penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Enhances potential penalties for individuals who protest near existing and planned gas and oil pipelines by criminalizing acts that interrupt or interfere with critical infrastructure facilities. In addition to prohibiting actual tampering with critical infrastructure property and equipment, the law prohibits "interfering, inhibiting, impeding, or preventing the construction or repair" of a critical infrastructure facility. Further, the law expands the definition of "critical infrastructure facility" to include a "site or location designated or approved for the construction of a facility" such as an oil or gas pipeline. Intentional interruption of a critical infrastructure facility, including by interfering with pipeline construction, is a Class C felony under the law, subject to a penalty of five years' imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both. The law also creates organizational liability for such acts: An organization found to have "conspired" with an individual who committed the interference could be criminally liable for ten times the fee imposed on the individual, or up to $100,000. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 15 Feb 2019; Approved by House 25 March 2019; Signed by Governor Burgum 10 April 2019

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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North Dakota

HB 1426: Heightened penalties for riot offences

Increases the penalties imposed for riot offenses. Under the law, participation in a riot is a Class A rather than Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Engaging in a riot involving more than 100 people is made a Class B felony, subject to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Governor Burgum signed the law on 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Riot

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North Dakota

HB 1293: Expanded scope of criminal trespass

Expands the scope of criminal trespass activity under state law such that it could encompass protests, demonstrations, or other gatherings on private property, if notice against trespass is "clear from the circumstances." The offense could be punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. The law also creates an additional, noncriminal trespass offense and allows officers to issue a citation with a $250 fine for trespassing. Governor Burgum signed the law on February 23, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Jan 2017; Signed into law 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Trespass

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North Dakota

HB 1304: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Prohibits the wearing of masks, hoods, or other device that "conceals any portion" of an individual's face while committing a criminal offense, in order to avoid recognition or identification. As drafted, the offense could encompass, e.g., individuals wearing hooded clothing while participating in a protest and also committing a minor offense such as jaywalking. Under the law, commission of the offense comprises a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Jan 2017; Governor Burgum signed it 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Face Covering

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North Dakota

HB 1240: Restitution penalty for offenses related to "riot"

Would permit a court to order restitution as an additional penalty for riot-related offenses. Under the bill, a person guilty of engaging in or inciting a "riot," or failure to obey law enforcement's orders "during a riot," may be ordered to make restitution for any property "damaged or destroyed in the course of the riot." The bill does not require that a restitution order be linked to an individual's direct responsibility for the damaged property. A bystander at the scene of a protest that was deemed a "riot," for instance, who does not comply with a police officer's orders, could face not only up to one year in jail (the penalty under current law) but also be charged with the cost of replacing property that was damaged by other protesters. "Riot" is defined under North Dakota law as a "public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 11 Jan 2021; Failed to pass House 10 February 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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North Dakota

HB 1203: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have eliminated the liability of a motorist who causes "injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway," as long as the motorist did so unintentionally. Under the bill, such a motorist would not be liable for any damages nor guilty of an offense. Accordingly, the bill would allow motorists to strike and even kill protesters without liability as long as the collision was negligent or accidental. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Failed in House on 13 Feb 2017

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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North Dakota

HB 1193: Expanding Traffic Interference to Commercial Activity and Creating a New Crime of Causing Economic Harm

Would expand traffic interference to include obstructing a private facility or private commercial equipment. Would also create a new Class C felony offense of committing a misdemeanor with the intent to cause "economic harm" of greater than $1,000 to the government or a private individual. Economic harm does not include law enforcement costs and the law does not apply to constitutionally protected activity. A Class C felony is punishable by up to five years in jail or a $10,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Jan 2017; Passed by House 2 February 2017; Failed to Pass Senate 28 March 2017

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Traffic Interference

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Texas

HB 9: New Penalties for Protesters who Block Traffic

Would heighten existing penalties for anyone who "knowingly prevents the passage of an authorized emergency vehicle" if the vehicle "is operating the vehicles emergency audible or visual signals" from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony. "Emergency vehicle" is broadly defined as "a municipal department or public service corporation emergency vehicle," a police or fire department vehicle, an ambulance, a vehicle of a blood or tissue bank, or a "private vehicle of an employee or volunteer of a county emergency management division." The law also requires that anyone convicted of preventing the passage of an authorized emergency vehicle must serve no less than 10 days of confinement even if the court grants community supervision to the defendant. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 25 Feb 2021; Approved by House 6 May 2021; Approved by Senate 22 May 2021; Signed by Governor 1 June 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Texas

HB 3557: New criminal and civil penalties for protests around critical infrastructure

Creates new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law provides for four new criminal offenses. One, "impairing or interrupting operation of critical infrastructure facility," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property and intentionally or knowingly "impair[ing] or interrupt[ing] the operation of" the facility. The act is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. This provision could target peaceful protests that, e.g., hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. A second offense, "intent to impair or interrupt critical infrastructure," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property "with the intent to impair or interrupt the operation of the facility." The act is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility, regardless of whether they actually impair or interrupt the facility's operations. The law also creates two new felony offenses for "damage" and "intent to damage" critical infrastructure. Under the law, an association that is found guilty of any of the offenses around critical infrastructure is subject to a $500,000 fine. The law also creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses: A defendant who engages in conduct covered by any of the criminal offenses is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that "knowingly compensates" a person for engaging in the conduct. The property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, and exemplary damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Mar 2019; Approved by House 7 May 2019; Approved by Senate 20 May 2019; Signed by Governor Abbott 14 June 2019

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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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: defeated / expired

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: defeated / expired

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: defeated / expired

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: defeated / expired

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: defeated / expired

Introduced 23 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Texas

SB 2229: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would revise criminal trespass and mischief law in Texas such that individuals and organizations involved in protests on infrastructure sites could be subject to harsh new penalties. The bill would create a new offense of trespass on critical infrastructure "with the intent to either damage, destroy, deface or tamper with" or the intent to "impede or inhibit the operations" of a facility. Accordingly, protesters who sought to peacefully demonstrate on a posted infrastructure facility such as a pipeline, with the intent to disrupt its operations, could be prosecuted. The offense would be a state jail felony punishable by one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill would also newly criminalize critical infrastructure mischief, defined to include defacing an infrastructure facility, and make it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Under the bill, an organization found guilty of either offense would be subject to a fine of ten times the maximum fine imposed on an individual--i.e., $100,000 for trespass, and $1,000,000 for mischief. The bill would expand the current definition of "critical infrastructure" under Texas law to include not only facilities that are completely enclosed by fencing but also property that is posted with signs that are "reasonably likely" to be seen. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 8 Mar 2019.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Texas

HB 2100: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill was amended after it was introduced, to require public colleges and universities to adopt a policy establishing disciplinary sanctions for students or student groups who "materially and substantially interfere with the rights of others to engage in, observe, or listen to expressive activities on campus." "Materially and substantially interfere" is not defined. According to the requisite policy, any student found to have twice interfered with another's "expressive activities," for instance through a protest, must be suspended for at least one semester. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 8 Mar 2019; Approved by House 30 April 2019

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Texas

HB 250: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person who was participating in a protest or demonstration that blocked traffic, if the driver was exercising "due care." The driver may still be civilly liable if his action was grossly negligent. Bill 250 expired with the end of the 2017 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 20 Jul 2017.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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