On Feb. 8, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 40, which increases the punishments for rioting or harming first responders and property during a protest.
H.B. 40, the Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder bill, would punish those who participate in a riot while showing a weapon or using a dangerous substance with a Class H felony, which has a maximum sentence of 39 months in prison.
If a person who is rioting assaults a member of emergency personnel they would also be guilty of a Class H felony.
The bill passed in the N.C. House 75-43, with all Republicans and six Democratsvoting in support. This may give the bill enough votes to override a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper.
The primary sponsors of H.B. 40 are N.C. Reps. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford), John Sauls (R-Lee, Moore), Charles Miller (R-Brunswick, New Hanover) and Shelly Willingham (D-Bertie, Edgecombe, Martin).
Moore, the speaker of the N.C. House, introduced similar legislation in 2021 that was vetoed by Cooper, a Democrat.
In his veto, Cooper said the bill was meant to "deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peaceful protest.”
Moore said in a statement that H.B. 40 "enforces harsher penalties for the perpetrators of violence and looting, while also preserving every North Carolinian’s right to protest peacefully."
A business owner whose property has been damaged or a person who is injured during a riot can now sue for up to three times the damages, as well as court costs and attorney's fees.