Last year, there were several drivers caught in the middle of riots who struck rioters with their vehicles while leaving the scene. There were also incidents of drivers deliberately driving into rioters with desire to harm them.
Oklahoma passed a new law last night that would give immunity to drivers who strike people while “leaving a riot.”
Politically, the law is a big winner. We’ve all seen and sympathized with a driver with kids in the car and people screaming and banging on his or her car windows.
One Democrat called the new law “draconian.” But Republicans respond with: “Why should rioters be protected under law and not innocent drivers?”
GOP Rep. Kevin McDugle proposed the bill, saying he supports the right to peacefully protest, but riots are not acceptable. “This bill simply says, ‘please be peaceful,’” he said. “Do not block roads. Do not interfere with others’ freedoms.”
How will officials determine if a violent incident was malice or self-defense? It’s a vague concept that makes this bill possibly problematic.
Forcing prosecutors to get into the mind of the driver and decide intent is asking for too much. The Oklahoma Senate should amend this bill to strengthen its vague language and solidify its meaning. Otherwise it might be used as a weapon against conservative protesters instead of liberal rioters.