Ask your state representative to vote NO on SB 173!
Existing Utah criminal code prohibits the the disruption of a lawful meeting by “physical action, verbal utterance, or any other means”. However, in the wake of recent protests targeting the development of an Inland Port in 2019, SB 173 attempts to bring more ‘civility’ and safety to public meetings by creating new penalties for individuals protesting at the State Capitol or near meetings of government officials.
Under existing Utah law, it is a class B misdemeanor to “disrupt” a meeting, which requires that a person “obstruct” or “interfere” with the meeting with the intention of preventing it. This law is already problematic for its vagueness and violation of free speech.
While it is valiant that SB 173 attempts to encourage civility, this bill perpetuates vague and unconstitutional code, expands the scope of the law and increases the range of penalties. Even a “single, loud outburst, absent other disruptive conduct, that does not exceed five seconds in length,” would be punishable as a class C, B or A misdemeanor, punishable with jail time and monetary fines. Rather than encouraging civility, SB 173 would have a chilling effect on public discourse.
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