Roadway Regulations During Protests

Recently, there have been several horrific incidents involving drivers and protestors during protests. Both parties fear for their lives at the hands of the other. Drivers have seen many cars overturned and set on fire, some with the driver still inside; while protestors have suffered serious injury and death from drivers running them over.

False Information Spread on the Internet

Lately, several posts have circulated the internet; claiming that if protestors surround your vehicle and begin “banging on your windows, threatening your or your vehicle” you can run them over. However, this statement is not accurate. You cannot use deadly force in self-defense unless it is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. Fear alone does not justify the use of deadly force. You must also prove that death or serious bodily injury was about to occur to either yourself or another person.

Furthermore, in Utah, you cannot protect property with deadly force. Meaning if a protestor touches, or interacts with your vehicle in a non-threatening manner during a protest, you cannot run them over; you will face charges of vehicular homicide.

Utah County Sheriff’s Office Press Release Dated July 13, 2020

On July 13, 2020, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office issued the following press release:

We fully support the Constitutional “right of the people to peaceably assemble”, but we want to ensure that those who may desire to exercise this right understand what it entails and what it doesn’t. To “peaceably assemble” means to gather as a group and, without violating any laws or violating any of the Constitutional rights of others, express a point of view. . . We welcome our community members to gather lawfully in the interest of political and social discourse. When you gather in accordance with the law, we will protect and facilitate your right to do so.

What is not allowed are violations of the law, such as standing in the roadway (unless the roadway has been closed to traffic by law enforcement), obstructing the passage of pedestrians or vehicles, threatening to do violence to persons or property, damaging personal property, assaulting individuals, making excessive noise, trespassing, or other violations of laws or ordinances.

 It is important to point out that pedestrians in the roadway do not have [the] right-of-way unless they are lawfully in the roadway. In other words, they must be in a crosswalk and crossing in accordance with traffic control devices, or in a roadway that has been closed to traffic by law enforcement. In the case of “jaywalking” (crossing in contravention of traffic signals or not in a crosswalk or at an intersection) or standing in a roadway obstructing traffic, vehicles have the right-of-way. There is no legally authorized method of obstructing traffic or stopping the flow of traffic. Blocking a vehicle from free and lawful movement may, in some cases, constitute unlawful detention of the vehicle’s occupants. In the cases where any of these violations [happen], the pedestrians will be the ones held accountable for the violations of the law. . .

Utah State Code

Utah code states that if an unlawful detention has occurred, the aggressor may be charged with aggravated kidnapping; according to Utah Code 76-5-302 “an actor commits aggravated kidnapping if the actor, in the course of committing unlawful detention or kidnapping. . . acts with intent to inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another individual”. Kidnapping is a second-degree felony; deadly force may be used to defend oneself from a felony that threatens death or serious bodily harm.

However, the use of force is only acceptable when used in proportion to the unlawful force used against you. In order to claim self-defense, you must abide by this rule.

As a Driver, You Can Keep Yourself and Protesters Safe

guy in a suit giving a thumbs up
  • Stay Calm and Be Patient

It is important that you remain calm, and keep your passengers calm; this way you will be able to form clear and logical decisions. Do not allow your passengers to heckle protestors.

  • Familiarize Yourself With The Area

Knowing the area you are traveling through will help you find an alternate route; if your planned route is no longer an option.

  • Maintain Distance

If you cannot change your route to avoid a protest, come to a complete stop; stopping a good distance away from the protest may protect both yourself and the protestors.

  • Prepare for an Emergency

Keep water, nonperishable food, and a first aid kit in your vehicle.

Were you or someone you know involved in a recent auto accident? Call Auto Accident Care Network now at 801-683-1948 to connect with a live care advocate. Our team at AACN can connect you to trusted attorneys and doctors to schedule a free legal consultation, a free thirty-minute massage, and a no-cost medical exam!

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