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.

45 states have
considered
222 bills
31 enacted 69 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: May. 7, 2021 (Missouri), May. 4, 2021 (North Carolina), Apr. 30, 2021 (Alabama, Texas)
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8 entries found matching the provided filters.
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: pending

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: pending

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: pending

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: pending

Introduced 1 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): riot, trespass

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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.