North Carolina Bill Protecting Drivers Who Hit Protesters is Shelved After Charlottesville Tragedy

Posted by Blake Caulder | Aug 22, 2017

The current political climate, as well as a number of controversial events, have encouraged groups of different origins and ideologies to take full advantage of their constitutional right to peacefully protest. A large influx of protests, both large and small, have broken out across the nation over the course of the past decade, thickening tensions between those who claim protesting is effective and those who claim it is an inconvenience. Legislators in several states have drafted laws centered around the act of protesting that undoubtedly contains serious implications.

North Carolina was one out of a handful of states that passed hotly contested protest-related legislation. The bill, known as House Bill 330, offers protection for drivers who unintentionally strike protestors. If the bill is enacted into law, drivers accused of hitting and possibly injuring or killing a protester could be exempt from civil liability and criminal charges as long as they were “exercising due care” and not in the commission of a “willful and “wanton” act while physically navigating a vehicle. The original text of the bill does not expound on or define what these terms actually mean.

Since the bill's passing in April, it has drawn a great deal of both praise and criticism. Supporters of the bill claim that it is not intended to incite violence, but to protect motorists who must drive through waves of protesters or who encounter blocked off streets. Critics of the bill assert that it's the state's stealthy method to weaken free speech rights of people who take part in protests. The American Civil Liberties Union coined the term, the “hit and kill” bill to describe their stance on the issue.

However, an abundance of people, along with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, had a change of heart regarding the bill after last weekend's tragic events. Many watched the news in horror as they witnessed self-described white nationalist James Alex Fields, in Virginia, plunge into a group of counter protesters in Charlottesville, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of other people. This rally and its violent and deadly events took the nation by storm. Many North Carolina residents questioned whether the bill would have protected Fields, while creators of the bill vehemently argue that it would not have.

Despite what could have happened, state legislators have decided to shelve the bill, assuring residents that they have “no plans to move it forward.” Gov. Roy Cooper released a statement vowing to veto the bill under any circumstances. It is safe to say, that due to recent events, it will not be enacted into law anytime soon, if ever.

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About the Author

Blake Caulder

Blake is a North Carolina native who was born in Marion, but grew up in Rutherfordton. While he was truly blessed to be raised in a loving, caring, and stable home, Blake realized at a young age that not everyone had that opportunity and always had a heart to help his friends who were hurting. Upon graduating high school, Blake began working with his father who has a real estate office in Bat Cave, North Carolina, while at the same time, attending Gardner-Webb University. Blake was seeking what direction to go with his career. At the time, the most reasonable thing appeared to be to join his father in his real estate practice. But putting aside the financial aspect and given his passion to help people, Blake wanted to do something that would allow him to take that passion to a whole other level. That's when Blake found the practice of law. Upon graduating from GWU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, Blake was accepted to Elon Law School and was a recipient of a Presidential Scholarship. After completing his first year of law school at Elon, Blake transferred to Charlotte School of Law to be closer to home and his wife. As an attorney, Blake genuinely cares about each individual client. His first and foremost goal is to help every client achieve the best possible outcome in their case and he strives to make a difference in their lives. Blake practices in the areas of family law, criminal defense, civil litigation, personal injury, and estate planning. While attending law school, Blake acquired significant legal experience in multiple practice areas by interning with both the law firm of Tomblin, Farmer and Morris, PLLC and the legal department of Family Dollar. In addition, Blake defended clients in criminal cases through Charlotte School of Law's Criminal Justice Clinic and provided legal services to individuals who were starting businesses through the school's Entrepreneurship Clinic. When not practicing law, Blake loves being involved in the community, participating in the local prison ministry and community service opportunities. He is grateful to have a wonderful wife, Daniella, and they are blessed with two children, Coleman Blake and Candrea Renea.