RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — A driver who runs into a demonstrator on a public street in North Carolina could avoid civil liability for the person’s injuries under legislation that has cleared the House.
Representatives gave final approval to the measure Thursday following a second straight day of debate over protecting motorists legally using the roads and the constitutional right to protest. The 67-48 vote was nearly identical to Wednesday’s margin for preliminary action.
The measure heading to the Senate says a driver would be immune from lawsuits if the driver used what is called “due care.” An amendment approved Thursday also made clear the immunity would not apply if the injured person was protesting with a valid permit to demonstrate on the street where the injury occurred.
Rep. Justin Burr (R-Montgomery County) decided to introduce the bill after watching footage of the protests in Charlotte after police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott last year.
“In the dark of night, individuals are running out onto the interstates and potentially putting not only their lives in danger but putting the lives of the people in the vehicles in danger,” he said.
If a driver is “exercising due care” and injures a protester blocking a street, the driver wouldn’t be held liable.
Wayne Goodwin, the head of the state Democratic party, called the bill “a shockingly horrible and dangerous piece of legislation.” Saying the courts would ultimately find such a law unconstitutional, Democrats are urging the state Senate and Gov. Roy Cooper to reject the bill.