Drivers who injure highway protesters while fleeing for safety would be protected under ‘bold’ new legislation

This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis introduced new legislation aimed at curbing violent protest activities.

The “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” debuted on Monday, September 21. The proposed law creates new criminal offenses, increases penalties, and takes measures that DeSantis says will protect the public from violent protest activities.

Notably, the legislation would create a new criminal offense in the state of Florida that would make it a third degree felony to obstruct a roadway during a unpermitted protest, demonstration or violent or disorderly assembly. The proposed legislation would also ensure that a “driver is NOT liable for injury or death caused if fleeing for safety from a mob.

DeSantis would also create criminal offenses for the following activities:

  • 3rd degree felony when 7 or more persons are involved in an assembly and cause damage to property or injury to other persons
  • 2nd degree felony to destroy public property during a violent or disorderly assembly
  • 1st degree misdemeanor for a participant in a violent or disorderly assembly to harass or intimidate a person at a public accommodation, such as a restaurant
  • RICO liability attaches to anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly.

Also under the new legislation, a person who strikes a law enforcement officer would face a 6 months mandatory minimum jail sentence.

DeSantis’s proposal would also forbid the defunding of Florida police departments and allow protest victims to sue protesters for damages. Anyone convicted of participating in a violent or disorderly assembly would be ineligible for state benefits or government employment under the DeSantis plan. Bail or bond would also not be permitted until first appearance in court for persons charged with with a crime related to participating in a violent or disorderly assembly.

“Our right to peacefully assemble is one of our most cherished as Americans, but throughout the country we’ve seen that right being taken advantage of by professional agitators, bent on sowing disorder and causing mayhem in our cities,” said Governor DeSantis. “I will not allow this kind of violence to occur here in Florida. The legislation announced today will not only combat rioting and looting, but also protect the men and women in law enforcement that wake up every day to keep us safe. I look forward to working with the Florida Legislature next session to sign this proposal into law.”

The next legislative session begins in March 2021, but DeSantis says that his team is already at work crafting the bill and collecting sponsors.

The proposed legislation comes after a spring and summer of nearly daily civil unrest during which members of the trucking community were often unwillingly caught up in protest activities.