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Is rioting a federal crime?

As a New York resident, you can exercise your ability to say what you want, protest what you don't agree with, and make your opinions known. But when does protesting become rioting? Just how much trouble can you get into if you become involved in a riot?

First of all, rioting is considered a federal crime, as it is a crime against the government. FindLaw takes a look at the punishment those convicted of rioting may face. They can be imprisoned for up to 5 years and will also likely be fined.

Rioting itself is defined as a situation in which protests become violent, or protests in which violence is incited. Rioting usually involves the destruction of property and can sometimes entail the harming of civilians or law enforcement figures. Key examples include the smashing of windows or throwing objects at police.

Inciting riots is also illegal. This includes people who are not directly at the protest but instead pass on instructions or incite riots through correspondence such as phone calls, texts, emails, or social media messages.

In cases where violence is not involved but you are still demonstrating without proper permits or outside of the permitted jurisdiction, the charge will likely be that of an unlawful assembly rather than a riot.

It should be noted, however, that the law against rioting is specifically not for preventing use of facilities if you are participating in a protest that is being organized lawfully by laborers. If you believe you are being wrongfully accused of rioting, consider contacting an attorney who can help defend you.

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