HB 1508: New penalties for protesters on state property and those who disturb official meetings
Would create a new offense of “unlawful possession of state property” that could apply to peaceful protesters. Under the bill, if a person occupies a building or grounds of any state institution, including public universities, after they have been told to leave by a security officer or authorized employee, it is a misdemeanor punishable by at least 30 days and up to 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine. The bill creates a new mandatory minimum sentence for “rioting” of 30 days in jail and restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. Rioting is defined in Alabama to include engaging with two or more persons in "tumultuous" conduct that creates a “substantial risk” of “public alarm.” The bill also requires that a person convicted of inciting a riot pay restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. It increases the penalty of disrupting a lawful assembly, procession, or meeting of persons to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The bill also creates a presumption against releasing a person who has been arrested for obstructing a highway or public passage, rioting, aggravated rioting, or inciting a riot within 12 hours of their arrest. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 22 Feb 2021.
Issue(s): damage costs, riot, traffic interference
HB 1321: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines
Would introduce harsh new penalties for protestors around gas and oil pipelines and other “critical infrastructure.” The bill broadly defines “critical infrastructure” to include a range of posted or fenced-off areas associated with natural gas and crude oil production, storage, and distribution, including above and belowground pipelines as well as pipeline construction sites and equipment. Under the bill, purposely entering or remaining on any “critical infrastructure” is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Separately, the bill provides that trespassing on property outside of a city or town, regardless of whether it is posted, is a Class D felony if the property is “critical infrastructure.” In nearly all other cases, trespass is a misdemeanor or minor violation. The bill also creates a felony offense for anyone who purposely and unlawfully “causes damage” to critical infrastructure. Any amount of “damage”—which the law does not define—is a Class B felony under the law, punishable by 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If the bill were enacted, protesters who hold a peaceful sit-in at a pipeline construction site and paint protest slogans on construction material, for instance, could face lengthy prison sentences. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 27 Jan 2021.
Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass