Arizona SB1142 : What Everyone Has Very Wrong About It

If your Facebook feed is full of political links, like mine is, you have probably come across an irrational reaction to Arizona’s Senate Bill 1142.  Most reactions to this bill are from people who either have not read the bill or are unintelligent enough to comprehend it.  So what is SB1142?

SB1142 is named “Riot; planning; participation; racketeering.”  What it does is make rioting (a class 5 felony), punishable as an organized crime.  Doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Well if you pay attention to the internet, the world has apparently ended because of SB1142.  Here are some screen shots of the fear porn and outright false headlines.


Not a single one of those headlines are truthful or accurate.

While SB1142 is quite long, here are some of the important parts that you should know.

“A.  A person commits conspiracy if, with the intent to promote or aid the commission of an offense, such person agrees with one or more persons that at least one of them or another person will engage in conduct constituting the offense and one of the parties commits an overt act in furtherance of the offense, except that an overt act shall not be required if the object of the conspiracy was to commit any felony upon ON the person of another, or to commit an offense under section 13‑1508, or 13‑1704 OR 13‑2903.

B.  If a person guilty of conspiracy, as defined in subsection A of this section, knows or has reason to know that a person with whom such person conspires to commit an offense has conspired with another person or persons to commit the same offense, such person is guilty of conspiring to commit the offense with such other person or persons, whether or not such person knows their identity.

C.  A person who conspires to commit a number of offenses is guilty of only one conspiracy if the multiple offenses are the object of the same agreement or relationship and the degree of the conspiracy shall be determined by the most serious offense conspired to.”

“13-2903.  Riot; classification

A.  A person commits riot if, with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which EITHER disturbs the public peace OR RESULTS IN DAMAGE TO THE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON.

B.  Riot is a class 5 felony.”

The internet apparently has a hard time comprehending what the words “intent, “knows,” and “conspired” means.  If you read the headlines and look at comments about the bill, one would be led to believe that merely attending or organizing a protest that suddenly turns bad, will somehow get you locked up and your property seized.  However, nowhere in the text of the bill is there a part that an intelligent individual could even accidentally come to that conclusion.

Reason.com, a popular Libertarian website, has recently published an article concerning this bill.  While the article strays pretty far into the “what-ifs” that could potentially happen if law enforcement used this bill to shut down all protests, peaceful or otherwise, the article was not that bad.  Even though their title is a bit on the conspiracy side: “Arizona Bill to Crack Down on Rioters Could Be Used to Shut Down Protests,” they admit in the article that “SB 1142 doesn’t actually do a whole lot but simply add rioting to existing conspiracy and racketeering classifications and defines rioting thus: “A person commits riot if, with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which either disturbs the public peace or results in damage to the property of another person.””

However, if you look at Reason’s Facebook comment section on their post about this article, you will actually find Libertarians (of all people) defending rioting and mob violence as protected free speech.

And then there’s this little gem from a person who apparently doesn’t understand the text of the bill.
And by the looks of the thumbs up on these comments, there’s plenty of other Libertarians that also either don’t understand the bill or believe that mob violence should be protected under the 1st Amendment.

For those confused, this is the text of the 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  The key word being “peaceably,” which rioting is not.

As you can plainly see, simply organizing a protest or being at a protest that turns violent, will not, in any way, necessarily land you in jail.  That is unless you intentionally organize a riot or knowingly participate in one.

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