RI lawmaker to re-introduce bill that would make blocking a highway a felony

After a protest blocked Route 95 North on Monday night, a state lawmaker plans to reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would make blocking a highway a felony charge.
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – After a protest blocked Route 95 North on Monday night, Senator Lou Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) plans to reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would make blocking a highway a felony charge.

Senator Raptakis said, though the protests were meant to be peaceful, they could’ve proved to be dangerous to others.

“You’re gonna endanger lives, you’re gonna endanger yourself, you’re gonna endanger many Rhode Islanders heading to hospitals for an emergency,” Raptakis said to ABC6 on Tuesday. “You cannot impede traffic, especially endangering lives where this can spiral out of control.”

Senator Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, Smithfield) intends to cosponsor the legislation. Raptakis said he has support on both sides of the aisle and hopes it’s passed to send a message.

“Providence is not gonna become Portland or Seattle. We’re not gonna accept protesting on the highway, federal and state highways, to state your cause. You can do it in a more peaceful manner,” Raptakis said.

Under the Raptakis legislation, which is modeled after a bill (2015-S 0129) that was previously submitted back in 2015, a person will be found to have committed the crime of unlawful interference with traffic if he or she “stands, sits, kneels or otherwise loiters on any highway or roadway under such circumstances that the conduct could reasonably be construed as interfering with the lawful movement of traffic” or if that action causes “the interruption, obstruction, distraction or delay of any motorist operating a motor vehicle” on the roadway or highway.

Any individual that violates this law would receive a felony charge.

A first offense would result in imprisonment of between one and three years, with no eligibility of suspension, deferral or probation for the first 60 days of any sentence.

A second violation would increase the prison term to between three and five years, with no eligibility for suspension, deferral or probation for one year.

A third violation will result in imprisonment for between five and 10 years, with no eligibility for suspension, deferral or probation for two years.

Senator Raptakis also plans to strengthen his prior legislation to give out more severe penalties if someone is seriously injured or dies due to the blockage of traffic.

“I believe in first amendment rights, but to go risk the lives, even your own life of a protestor, you’re gonna pay the penalty of the consequences.”

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2020

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island