Bill Description: House Bill 148 would establish a new crime of "impeding critical infrastructure".
NOTE: Many of the problems with House Bill 148 mirror the problems with House Bill 147.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
House Bill 148 would create Section 18-7046, Idaho Code, to establish a new crime of "impeding critical infrastructure.” The bill defines "impedes" as "to block the operation of or prevent legal access to a critical infrastructure facility or the construction of a permitted critical infrastructure facility" or "to damage, destroy, deface, or tamper with the equipment of a critical infrastructure facility or a permitted critical infrastructure facility."
Nearly all of these actions are already prohibited under existing laws prohibiting trespass and vandalism.
Among other problems with this concept, "critical infrastructure" is defined very broadly and includes "financial services," "food and agriculture," "government facilities, and "health care and public health" among many others.
The penalties prescribed under this section would include up to six months incarceration and up to $1,000 in fines for damages or "economic loss" of less than $1,000, which would be classified as a misdemeanor. Causing damages or "economic loss" of $1,000 or more would be classified as a felony and carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison. The penalty could also include fines of up to "the cost of damages or economic loss."
A fine of up to $100,000 may also be levied against "an individual or organization that aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands, or procures a person to commit the crime of impeding critical infrastructure."
House Bill 148 additionally allows that "a critical infrastructure facility may maintain a civil action against an individual or organization for damages suffered as a consequence of a violation of the provisions of this subsection, including damages for lost profits, whether or not any fine is imposed pursuant to the provisions of this subsection."
It appears that (as with House Bill 147), this bill is intended to create a new crime specifically to target protesters who have shown up at government and quasi-governmental facilities (such as hospitals and public health districts) to protest egregious violations perpetrated by these entities against individuals’ rights.
Consider as an example a private citizen who wrote an email or social media post encouraging people to protest at a hospital where a child kidnapped by government agents was being kept away from the child's parents. If the protesters were deemed to have blocked or prevented access to that hospital, the person who wrote the email or social media post could be fined $100,000 under this law.
Likewise, the protesters could be charged with felonies for causing "economic loss" if the hospital claimed that the presence of the protesters forced it to suspend certain actions during the protest.
Does it violate the principle of equal protection under the law? Examples include laws which discriminate or differentiate based on age, gender, or religion or which apply laws, regulations, rules, or penalties differently based on such characteristics. Conversely, does it restore or protect the principle of equal protection under the law?
Idaho law already prohibits trespassing and vandalism. House Bill 148 would establish a new and duplicative law to grant special and enhanced legal protections to a host of government and quasi-governmental facilities, such as hospitals and public health districts.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 147 says the new crime of "impeding critical infrastructure" would not apply if a person is "engaging in lawful conduct such as participating in a public demonstration to the extent that such activity is protected under the United States constitution or the constitution of the state of Idaho."
There are several problems with this language. For starters, it is essentially meaningless because any law that attempted to criminalize activity "protected under the United States constitution or the constitution of the state of Idaho" would already be invalid and unenforceable, even without this statement.
A second problem is that this bill expands the definition of what is unlawful in terms of a public demonstration or protest. It says that any actions that "block the operation of or prevent legal access to" a critical infrastructure facility would constitute a crime.
A large crowd of protesters surrounding a government facility could easily fall under this broad definition, triggering felony charges against the protesters because simply being in the way would no longer be considered "lawful conduct."