NC House Speaker backs increased penalties for riots, civil disorder

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Kings Mountain, gavels in a session as North Carolina legislators convene on the House floor to move forward a coronavirus relief package in Raleigh, Thursday, April 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH – N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) introduced legislation significantly increasing penalties for rioting and related crimes within the state on Tuesday.

House Bill 805, known as the Preventing Rioting and Civil Disorder Act, would increase penalties for inciting a riot that leads to death, engaging in riots, and engaging in riots that lead to the physical injury of a first responder.

“Riots and looting devastated many North Carolina downtowns last year at a time when many small businesses were already struggling,” said Speaker Moore. “This legislation will seek to deter future riots and increase penalties on those who engage in this anti-social anarchy.”

Victims would be able to recover treble damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees, according to the measure.

“The destruction we saw last year cannot be repeated,” said Rep. John Sauls (R-Lee), a co-sponsor of the bill. “Peaceful protesting is important and protected by the Constitution, but those who destroyed downtowns were not interested in making a political point. Instead they were acting lawlessly and often minority-owned businesses were the hardest hit.”

“It’s not an either—or question: We can pass legislation to crack down on rioters and looters, and those who hurt law enforcement officers, while also ensuring police are trained to prevent abuse and that the few officers who have abused their authority are held responsible,” Speaker Moore added.

A North State Journal investigation found that last summer’s riots statewide cost taxpayers millions.

House Bill 805 is anticipated to be taken up by the N.C. House of Representatives within the next two weeks.