Re: people have making excuses for the guy in Charlottesville who tried to commit a spree killing with his car. This brought up–rightly–the many bills that Republican representatives have introduced over the last year in response to Black Lives Matter protests.
I noticed that the list of states trying out zero liability for motorists who kill protestors on Twitter was incomplete. Thanks for Vets Against Trump (@commondefense) and Dean Gloster (@deangloster) for the starting list, though. I was thinking about doing some more research on this topic, so I thought I would gather up some notes to see if it’s worth working on. It looks like a lot of these die in committee, as they deserve to, so I don’t think I’ll go any further with it. Note, however, it’s passed the NC House. I always use this blog to share ideas and research notes, and so I thought others might be interested in what I found while I digging around. If you have more, holler at me, either on Twitter (@drschweitzer) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are not the full plate of anti-protest laws cropping up, which include increasing fines for trespass on infrastructure. I don’t see those as deliberate attempts to embolden the use of deadly weapons in the public sphere, like SYG, in the same way as zero-liability laws do for motorists. The US already has clear language about what constitutes accidents and what constitutes vehicular homicide; trespassing is already treated as a mitigating factor in assigning liability. These laws merely muddy the water and make it easier for people to cause harm without personal consequences.
Nonetheless some of these anti-protest laws are far-reaching, and you might want to check out the summary from the United Nations. They mostly increase fines for trespass and introduce the ability of the state to sue individual protestors.
Florida SB 1096 Sponsored by Sen. George B. Gainer.
(2) A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes
26 injury or death to a person who obstructs or interferes with the
27 regular flow of vehicular traffic in violation of subsection (1)
28 is not liable for such injury or death. In any action brought
29 pursuant to this section, a person accused of violating
30 subsection (1) or his or her representative has the burden of
31 proving that he or she did not violate subsection (1) or that
32 the injury or death was not unintentional.
33 Section 2. This act shall take effect
Failed in committee.
Indiana SB 285Sponsored by Republican Bruce Borders
Sec. 2. A responsible public official shall, not later than fifteen
1 (15) minutes after first learning that a mass traffic obstruction
2 exists in the official’s jurisdiction, dispatch all available law
3 enforcement officers to the mass traffic obstruction with directions
4 to use any means necessary to clear the roads of the persons
5 unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic.
The “by any means necessary” business in there is troubling, even though this is not a zero liability law. This part was removed in later versions of the bill. It’s still in committee.
North Dakota HB 1203 Rep. Keith Kempenich (R)
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a driver of a motor vehicle who
unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a
public road, street, or highway is not guilty of an offense.
Defeated by majority vote.
Republican state Representative Keith Kempenich told local media that he sponsored the bill after his mother-in-law was caught in a protest while driving.
North Carolina HB 330 Sponsored by Rep. Richard Burr (R) and Rep. Chris Millis (R)
(a) A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public
street or highway is immune from civil liability for the injury.
(b) A person shall not be immune from civil liability if the actions leading to the injury
were willful or wanton.
(c) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply if the injured person participating in a
protest or demonstration was doing so with a valid permit allowing persons to protest or demonstrate on the public street or highway where the injury occurred.
Passed in House 68-47, referred to Senate in April.
Tennessee’s HB 668–Sponsored by Republican state Rep. Matthew Hill (R) and Rep Judd Matheny (R).
(a) A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures
another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in
a public right-of-way is immune from civil liability for such injury.
(b) A person shall not be immune from civil liability if the actions leading to the
injury were willful or wanton.
Failed in committee in both houses.
Texas HB250 sponsored by Rep. Pat Fallon (R) who is all over Twitter today wondering whether Heather Heyer, the young woman killed in Charlottesville, was on the street “illegally.” Pro tip: shut your BBQ-hole, Pat.
A person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle is not liable for the injury if, at the time of the injury:
(1) the person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care; and
(2) the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration.
(b) This section does not affect a person’s liability for an
injury caused by grossly negligent conduct.
Referred to committee. Though it is worth noting it’s been through the wringer multiple times and he had to withdraw it before.