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Laws could protect drivers who hit protesters

Imagine being in a crowd protesting. You're not a hazard to anyone. You're minding your own business and speaking your mind within your First Amendment rights. You have permission to stand on the sidewalk and to be on the roads. There are barriers around you.

Then, a car crashes into the crowd. You're left with injuries, and other people have been hurt or killed.

The last thing you'd expect is for anyone to protect the driver against charges, but in several states, there are discussions about providing limited protections to drivers who cause death or injuries to protesters. One of those states is Rhode Island.

In North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and other states, the new legislation has the potential to make it legal for a driver to hit protesters so long as the driver didn't intend to do so. Essentially, this would make it easier for drivers to move down the road without having to worry if they bump into protesters who refuse to get out of the way or intentionally jump on the vehicles. That isn't how the bill reads in every state, though, and in Texas, for instance, even those who hit protesters due to negligence or with intent could be protected against prosecution depending on the situation.

The catch in most of the legislation is that the protester must be blocking traffic purposefully for the legislation to apply. Additionally, the driver must be exercising due care at the time of the accident. In Florida's potential legislation, there is a caveat that drivers who cause injuries willfully are not immune from liability.

Efforts to make this concept into a law have failed thus far, protecting the rights of pedestrians everywhere. If you're injured during a protest, you're still protected and a driver still has to answer for his or her actions.

Source: CNN, "These states have introduced bills to protect drivers who run over protesters," Dakin Andone, Aug. 19, 2017

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