Proposed Tennessee bill seeks to classify blocking roadway as a felony offense

A bill currently under consideration in Tennessee aims to elevate the offense of blocking a road from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Senator Brent Taylor, a representative from Memphis, has emphasized that the purpose of the bill is to prevent vehicles from obstructing traffic and causing hazardous conditions. Additionally, the proposed legislation aims to address protests that result in the blockage of streets.

According to Taylor, there is a growing issue with drivers blocking interstates and intersections to engage in a dangerous activity known as drifting. This involves spinning donuts and causing traffic to come to a halt in four-way intersections. What makes matters worse is that these drivers often go a step further by hanging out of their car windows and brandishing firearms. This kind of behavior instills fear in motorists who are simply trying to navigate through traffic and leaves them completely clueless about the situation unfolding around them.

Senate Bill 2570 has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 7-2. The next step for the bill is to be reviewed by the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. According to the bill’s fiscal note, it is projected that the state will incur an annual cost of $241,000 for the additional expenses associated with incarceration.

The bill also grants individuals the right to take legal action for any property damage caused by blocking the roadway.

Senator Sara Kyle of Memphis highlighted that the bill would also affect protests that obstruct roadways, even though this aspect is not explicitly mentioned in the bill’s explanation. Kyle emphasized that the right to protest is protected under the First Amendment.

Taylor firmly stated that no individual’s First Amendment right grants them the power or entitlement to violate the law.

Committing a Class D felony carries a potential prison sentence of at least two years and a maximum fine of $5,000. SB 2570, if passed, will become effective on July 1.

Similar bills to add penalties for blocking roads during protests have also been pushed by other state legislatures, including Washington.

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MBS Staff
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