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Proposed Missouri bills would offer protection for drivers who hit protesters

The bills would not excuse gross negligence
Credit: KSDK

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Two proposed bills sponsored by Missouri senators would offer legal protection for drivers if they hit a protester with their vehicle.

HB 56, also called The Fleeing Motorist Protection Act, is sponsored by Missouri Rep. Adam Schnelting, a Republican who represents St. Charles.

"The Fleeing Motorist Protection Act ensures that motorists who are trapped in their vehicle during a riot are civilly and criminally protected under state law," Schnelting wrote Thursday on Twitter. "If your grandparents are caught in a mob and are being threatened, they shouldn’t be held liable for inadvertently hitting a rioter if they flee the scene in order to save those in the car from physical danger."

The exact wording of the proposed bill is as follows:

"If a person attempts to flee in a motor vehicle from an unlawful or riotous assemblage, such person shall not be criminally or civilly liable for any deaths or injuries to any individual participating in the unlawful or riotous assemblage that may result if the person reasonably believes he or she or any occupant of the motor vehicle is in danger."

The bill does not seek to change laws on vehicular assault or excuse gross negligence, Schnelting said. He clarified Friday that the bill would apply to "rioters & mobs," not peaceful demonstrators.

"Peaceful protesting is a very American idea, one that I will support until the day I die," he wrote.

SB 66, sponsored by Senator-elect Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), introduced a similar bill that would remove the driver's liability for hitting a person taking part in a protest who is in a public right-of-way. The bill would not excuse gross negligence.

The bill's exact wording is as follows:

"Any person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle shall not be liable for any damages if, at the time of the injury: (1) The person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care;  and (2) The person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration."

The bill also would withhold state funds from local governments who cut police budgets to more than 12% in relation to other items in the budget and take away employment benefits from public employees convicted of unlawful assembly or rioting.

Missouri's 2021 legislative session is set to begin on Jan. 6.