Motorist Protections during Riots Passes House

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation to protect motorists fleeing a riot and that would update punishments for rioters passed the House on Tuesday.

House Bill 1674 was authored Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore and co-authored by Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, who presented the measure on the House floor.

The bill 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, during the height of violent riots that were sweeping the nation, resulting in loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage, a motorist in Oklahoma traveling with his wife and two school-aged children was surrounded by aggressive protestors in the roadway,” West said. “The protestors beat at his truck and threw things at it, scaring both him and his family. The driver was severely chastised for trying to hurt the protesters and he even faced the possibility of criminal charges for his actions in attempting to evade the protestors. This measure would clarify a motorist’s rights in a similar situation going forward. It also would clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm of other individuals during the course of a riot.”

“I fully agree that peaceful protests are a right of the people, and I condone anyone who wants to protest peacefully,” McDugle said. “Once anyone impedes on the freedoms of others, however, the protest is no longer peaceful. I simply want to make sure people on both sides of any issue are kept safe and have the right to defend or protect their families when they feel their lives are threatened.”

HB 1674 states 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 passed by a vote of 79-18. It now advances to the state Senate where it is authored by Rob Standridge, R-Norman.