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Salt lake city police car Utah rioters penalties
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Utah lawmakers look to increase penalties on ‘rioters’

A police car is engulfed in flames as people protest police brutality in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (PHOTO: Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah lawmakers are moving to toughen penalties on those who participate in riots. The proposed bill is also looking to draw a clearer distinction for when a protest crosses the line into a violent or destructive riot.

‘It’s sickening to see that happen’

SB138 is being sponsored by Senator David Hinkins, R-Orangeville. He presented the bill on Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

“We saw what happened in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “It’s sickening to see that happen, and to see it here in Utah is even more sickening.”

Also speaking to the committee in favor of the measure was Ken Dudley. Last year, he was shot twice while driving his car during a protest against police brutality in Provo.

“My right hand’s not working at all and I’m in a sling, and I’m wondering, ‘How am I going to defend my family, protect my family if they come back after me?” he told the committee. “Maybe not a rational thought at the time, but terrifying.”

Potential increased penalties

Passage of the bill would mean accused rioters lose their right to bail if charged with an offense during a riot, specifically in which “substantial property damage or bodily injury is sustained.” 

It also would change the jail time minimum from 90 days to 180 consecutive days for a first or second offense, and 180 to 270 consecutive days for each subsequent offense. 

Additionally, the bill would indemnify a driver who unintentionally causes injury or death to a protester. The driver would need to be “fleeing from a riot under a reasonable belief that fleeing is necessary to protect” the driver or passengers from “serious injury or death.”

The Senate committee eventually voted 5-2 to endorse the bill. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.