Barkis introduces bill to crack down on illegal highway blockades with tougher penalties

In an effort to bring a permanent end to highway blockades that endanger lives, cripple commutes, and undermine law and order, 2nd District Rep. Andrew Barkis today introduced legislation that would inflict tougher penalties on those taking part in such illegal activity. The bill comes in response to recent protests that shut down Interstate 5 in Seattle, causing five hours of gridlock and pulling police officers away from their regular duties.

House Bill 2358 has 35 cosponsors, including Rep. David Hackney, D-Tukwila.

The key provisions of the bill include:

  • Increased penalties for obstructing highways: The bill would create a new gross misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines and/or jail time, for individuals who, acting with three or more people, block traffic on a state highway without legal authority.
  • Felony charges for endangering public safety: The bill would elevate the charge to a Class C felony if the obstruction created a risk of injury, impeded an ambulance, or the individuals refused to disperse upon lawful order. Organizers or leaders of such illegal activities would also face significant monetary penalties not applicable under current law.
  • Mandatory minimums for repeat offenders: Individuals with prior convictions for similar offenses would face a minimum fine of $6,125 and a 60-day jail sentence.

“Every minute a state highway is illegally blocked puts lives at risk, delays critical assistance, and inflicts economic hardship on countless taxpayers,” said Barkis, R-Olympia. “It is time to reclaim our roads and send a clear message to those who wantonly break the law and endanger others: Washington will not tolerate anarchy on our highways. We will enforce the law and hold people accountable for making their fellow citizens suffer.”

House Bill 2358 has been referred to the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, where it awaits further action.

###

Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov