OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would protect motorists fleeing a riot and that would update punishments for rioters passed the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee on Thursday with a vote of 3-1.
House Bill 1674 by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, would create a new section of law to protect motor vehicle operators fleeing a riot under a reasonable belief their actions were necessary to protect them from serious injury or death. It also would update language in statute relating to those who are convicted of illegal activity during the course of riots.
“Last summer we saw a number of very violent riots both here in Oklahoma and nationwide,” West said. “We had scenarios where motorists were simply trying to extricate themselves or their families or passengers from those very volatile and dangerous situations and yet were barred from doing so and later chastised for trying to harm people blocking their escape routes. This measure would clarify that such actions by motorists would be legal and allowed, and it will clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm.”
HB 1674 also adds that every person who unlawfully obstructs – or makes impassable or hazardous – the normal use of any public street, highway or road within Oklahoma by impeding, hindering or restraining motor vehicle traffic or passengers, by endangering the safe movement of motor vehicles or pedestrians shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not less than $100.00 and not exceeding $5,000.00, or by both such fine and imprisonment. In addition, the person shall be liable for all damages to person or property.
The measure also addresses organizations found to have conspired with persons found guilty of committing crimes under rioting statutes. Those organizations shall be fined 10 times the amount authorized by the appropriate provision.
HB 1674 now is eligible to be considered by the entire House.