The actions of activist groups such as Peaceful Uprising, while peacefully protesting, have ruffled many feathers within the halls of power in Utah. Action was swift to penalize the activities of these and similar groups by conservative members of the legislature.
The 2010 bill did a number of things, including making it illegal to “cause action of any nature by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies” and threatens to harm a person or property.
When the 2010 law passed, however, there was no actual penalty associated with the emergency responder clause. In other words, it was still illegal to commit this type of terrorism, but there was no language guiding what the punishment would be.
It is for this reason that Hutchings is returning this session with HB 27, Threat of Terrorism Amendments.
Quite simply, this bill would make it a class B misdemeanor to violate the emergency responder clause.
Utah Political Capitol has heard murmurings from those involved in the recent peaceful protests seen across the state that this is an attempt to punish citizens who choose to express their rights by sitting in the middle of an intersection, or camping in a public park. But a careful reading of the bill and the greater code surrounding the terrorism law shows that this is not the case. In order to be guilty of the emergency responder clause, a person must first “threaten to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage.” Of course, neither Peaceful Uprising or any regular activist group in Utah have any history of such.
It should be noted that there is a possibility that this clause will be used by local law enforcement to temporarily break up protests, which, without question, would be an abuse of power and a violation of First Amendment rights. But that possibility doesn’t seem very probable, although if it did start to lean that way an immediate repeal should be pushed for.
In the end, this bill would punish those that pose a legitimate and immediate threat to the state and citizens. We should add that Hutchings is making a violation of this law a class B misdemeanor (on par with DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, shoplifting under $300, or creating a public nuisance), and one would only be guilty if an offender used a weapon or threatened to use a weapon of mass destruction. By adding a criminal penalty, Hutchings is giving this law some teeth.
To contact Rep. Hutchings, Click Here or call 801-963-2639
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill