US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL’s US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since November 2016 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here.

36 states have
considered
106 bills
17 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
19 pending 68 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Nov. 21, 2019 (Wisconsin), Nov. 6, 2019 (South Dakota), Oct. 24, 2019 (Kentucky)
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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

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.