Law enforcement have asked lawmakers this session to strengthen laws that will give more "teeth" to the laws against those who engage in illegal protest activity. The House answered; passing a majority of the package of proposed bills.
House Bill 1193 creates a new offense for those who if in the act of an A misdemeanor directly or indirectly cause more than $1,000 worth or economic harm to a business. This would be a Class C Felony. Legislators cited examples such has Dakota Access Pipeline protesters who attached themselves to equipment, or vandalized construction equipment. Supporters of the new law say this protects the constitutional rights of those protesting peacefully and has consequences for those who cross the line.
"As one of the only Legislators who live within 15 minutes of the existing protest camp, I have heard from the officers and the locals who believe our current laws are not sufficient nor efficient to protect us," said Rep. Jim Schmidt.
"If there's a gap or holes in our laws, we need to fix it," added Rep. Kim Koppleman. "It is a C Felony if a person steals $1,000 worth of goods, why shouldn't this follow suit?"
HB1193 passed with a vote of 72-19.
Representatives also approved HB 1304 which makes it a Class A misdemeanor for an individual to wear a mask while committing of a crime or leaving the scene of a crime.
Rep. Larry Klemin said, "A Class B Misdemeanor is just not going to cut it anymore."
The House also supported a bill that allows law enforcement to issue $250 fines for trespassing on property that is posted. This proposal could reduce the number of cases that need to go through the court system. It would work similar to how speeding tickets are issued.
The fourth bill approved increases the penalties for involvement in a riot. The crime is a Class B felony if the riot involves one hundred or more people and or if the individual possesses or supplies a firearm, dangerous weapon or like device. For even engaging in a riot, the crime is a Class A
misdemeanor. This bill passed even though it had a do not pass recommendation out of committee.
House members rejected HB 1383, which made it a Class B misdemeanor to loiter.
The four bills that passed have emergency clauses, which mean they will go into effect as soon as the Governor signs the bills into law. These bills will now go to the Senate for their action.
Law enforcement have requested several law changes as they have responded to the illegal acts perpetrated by those who are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in southern Morton County. Protest activity has been on-going since August and has resulted in law enforcement arresting 700 individuals for illegal protest acts.
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