OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Stitt on Wednesday signed into law a bill that will protect motorists fleeing a riot from criminal and civil liability.
House Bill 1674 by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, creates a new section of law that protects motor vehicle operators fleeing a riot under a reasonable belief their actions are necessary to protect them from serious injury or death. It also updates language in statute relating to those who are convicted of illegal activity during the course of riots.
“Last summer, we saw a number of riots both here in Oklahoma and nationwide,” West said. “On the day this bill was signed into law, we even had an outburst in the House of Representatives. That thankfully was resolved quickly and without violence, but it illustrates that we are a nation governed by laws. I certainly support the right to peacefully protest and assemble. I will not, however, endorse rioters that spill onto city or state streets, blocking traffic and even harming property of vehicle operators who are simply trying to move freely. This law gives clarity to those motorists that they are in fact within their rights to seek safety.”
Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, authored the bill in the Senate and carried it through that chamber.
“This bill is meant to protect individuals and families who find themselves trapped in a frightening and dangerous situation and are simply trying to protect themselves,” he said.
HB 1674 adds that every person unlawfully obstructing the normal use of any public street, highway or road within this state by impeding, hindering or restraining motor vehicle traffic or passage thereon, by standing or approaching motor vehicles thereon, or by endangering the safe movement of motor vehicles or pedestrians traveling thereon 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 and not exceeding $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment. In addition, the person shall be liable for all damages to person or property by reason of the same. As used in this paragraph, "obstruct" means to render impassable or to render passage unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous.
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.