HB 3329: New penalties for protesters who block traffic or are convicted of "riot," including limits on public benefits
Would create a new felony offense that could cover peaceful protesters who block traffic. Under the bill, obstructing vehicles or pedestrians “on a public way” would be a Class C felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and $125,000, if committed during a “violent or disorderly assembly.” The bill defines “violent or disorderly assembly” as a group of two or more people who cause property damage or injury. The definition would seem to cover a large demonstration where some participants commit even minor property damage. The bill also creates a new Class C felony offense for causing “alarm” by “engaging in threatening or intimidating conduct” at a place of public accommodation. The bill limits access to public benefits and employment for protesters, providing that a person is disqualified from receiving public assistance or being employed by the state if the person is convicted of “riot” or any crime that has as an element the fact that it occurred during a “violent or disorderly assembly.” The bill also prohibits the immediate release of a person arrested for “riot” or for a crime occurring during a “violent or disorderly assembly,” until the person appears in court. Finally, the bill waives the immunity of public bodies, officers, employees and agents for a civil claim arising out of a “riot,” if the entity or individual was “grossly negligent” in protecting persons or property. If enacted, such provisions could encourage local governments and law enforcement agencies to adopt overly aggressive responses to protests, to avoid costly lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 2 Mar 2021.
Issue(s): riot, traffic interference, state liability, limit on public benefits