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Broadens the Definition of a Riot

Answer

Many of the bill’s provisions are applicable when a gathering is deemed a “riot.” Law enforcement is given broad discretion in applying these laws. The law’s definition of riot is full of ambiguity. The law states:

A person commits a riot if he or she willfully participates in a violent public disturbance involving an assembly of three or more persons, acting with a common intent to assist
each other in violent and disorderly conduct, resulting in:

(a) Injury to another person;

(b) Damage to property; or

(c) Imminent danger of injury to another person or damage to property.

Therefore, it is unclear:

  • Whether the person needs to act with a common intent to commit violence or disorderly conduct with the group of three.
  • Whether the person needs to be violent, or if it is enough that a gathering is violent.
  • Whether the person’s actions need to result in injuries, property damage, or imminent danger of such, or if it is enough that the conduct of the group of three does.

Because the law is unclear in these respects, we are concerned that law enforcement may adopt the broadest possible interpretation and thus interpret their authority to arrest individuals extremely broadly.

Once a gathering is deemed a riot, it can be deemed an aggravated riot, carrying up to 15 years’ imprisonment, if:

  • There are a total of 26 people involved.
  • The person causes great bodily harm to someone not participating.
  • The person causes more than $5,000 in property damage.
  • The person displays, uses, or threatens to use, a deadly weapon.
  • The person, by force, or threat of force, endangers the safe movement of a vehicle on a public street, highway, or road.

Once something is deemed a riot, no bail is allowed until first appearance (within 24 hours of arrest) and penalties are enhanced for:

  • Assault and Aggravated Assault
  • Battery and Aggravated Battery
  • Mob Intimidation
  • Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer
  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Unlawful Assembly