While protests are often peaceful, they could turn ugly when violence is involved. At that point they become riots, and their chaotic nature could lead to property damage and injuries.
North Dakota has laws prohibiting rioting; anyone caught participating or directing one could face criminal charges.
Participating in a riot is illegal
Per state law, it’s against the law for a person to engage in a riot. A “riot,” as defined by the law, refers to a public disturbance that involves at least five individuals who – through violent conduct – endanger property and people or obstruct law enforcement.
The offense of engaging in a riot is a Class A misdemeanor. On conviction, a person faces as much as $3,000 in fines and up to 365 days in prison.
Inciting a riot is an even greater offense
If a person is suspected of urging five or more people to riot or was found giving commands to a crowd to further a riot, they can face criminal charges for inciting riot. Unlike mere participation, inciting a riot is a Class C felony offense. A person convicted of the offense must pay a maximum $10,000 fine and spend up to five years in prison.
Arming rioters is prohibited, too
North Dakota also has laws that forbid people from arming rioters. The offense of arming a rioter includes acts such as supplying firearms or dangerous weapons and teaching rioters how to use weapons. Rioters caught holding weapons may also face charges.
This charge is a Class B felony, and on conviction, it leads to as much as $20,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.
The First Amendment allows peaceful protests, but riots are dangerous and illegal. Anyone caught participating in a riot could face harsh penalties, no matter the reason for the grievance. If an officer charges you with being part of a riot despite being an innocent bystander, you should quickly consider your legal options.