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Inciting To Riot


In the United States, the First Amendment protects individuals’ right to assemble and express their views through protest. The First Amendment guarantees the right of Americans to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. However, government officials are allowed to place restrictions on the exercise of this right. For example, there are laws against rioting and inciting others to riot. A riot is generally a protest that turns violent. This article looks at both federal and New York prohibitions against inciting others to riot.

Federal Law Against Inciting To Riot

According to federal law, the crime of inciting to riot occurs when a person urges or instigates other people to riot. Federal law considers a riot as a public disturbance involving;

  1. an act(s) of violence by one or more people of an assemblage of three or more persons, which act(s) shall constitute a danger of, or result in, damage or injury to property or a person; or
  2. a threat(s) of the undertaking of an act(s) of violence by one or more people of an assemblage of three or more individuals having the ability to execute such threat(s), where the execution of the threat(s) would constitute a clear and present danger of or would result in, damage or injury to property or a person.

An individual would be charged under federal law if, among other things;

  • rioting happens on federal lands, federal government buildings, military bases, etc.
  • they traveled between countries or states to participate in a riot
  • they used interstate or foreign commerce, including mail, telephone, internet, radio, social media and television, to communicate with the intent to incite a riot

Under federal law, the punishment for inciting to riot includes fines and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

New York Law Against Inciting to Riot

According to New York Penal Law 240.08, an individual is found guilty of inciting a riot when they urge ten or more individuals to engage in any violent and tumultuous conduct of a nature that’s likely to cause public alarm. The crime of inciting to riot in New York is a class A misdemeanor, which in New York, is punishable by up to one year in jail, three years of probation, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

In New York, in order for the defendant to be guilty of inciting to riot, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on a particular day, in a specific county, the defendant urged ten or more individuals to participate in violent and tumultuous conduct of a nature likely to create public alarm. If the prosecution fails to prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must be found not guilty of inciting to riot.

It is crucial that, if you are charged with inciting to riot, you retain a skilled criminal defense attorney who can defend you accordingly. Whether yours is a state or federal charge, it is vital that you don’t ignore the importance of hiring an attorney.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with inciting to riot, contact the skilled and dedicated NYC criminal defense attorney Mark I. Cohen, Esq. at 212-732-0002 to discuss your case.




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