NRS 18-9-102 is the Colorado law prohibiting inciting a riot, which means instigating a group of at least five people to engage in a riot. If no bodily injuries or property damage occurs, incitement of a riot is a class 1 misdemeanor carrying 6 – 18 months in jail and/or $500 – $5,000. Otherwise, riot incitement is a class 5 felony carrying 1 – 3 years in prison and/or $1,000 – $100,000.
NRS 18-9-102 states:
A person commits inciting riot if he:(a) Incites or urges a group of five or more persons to engage in a current or impending riot; or(b) gives commands, instructions, or signals to a group of five or more persons in furtherance of a riot.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is inciting a riot in Colorado?
- 2. What are the penalties under CRS 18-9-102?
- 3. How can I fight the charges?
- 4. Is the criminal record sealable?
- 5. Related offenses
1. What is inciting a riot in Colorado?
Colorado’s legal definition of inciting a riot is either:
- provoking or urging a group of five or more people to participate in a present or future riot; or
- instructing, signaling or commanding a group of five or more people to further a riot.1
Therefore, ringleaders or instigators of a riot would face incitement charges while the individual rioters would instead face charges for engaging in a riot. It makes no difference whether the incitement occurs on public or private property.
An example of incitement is holding a political rally, stirring up the crowd with charged rhetoric, and encouraging them to fight.
2. What are the penalties under CRS 18-9-102?
Inciting a riot is a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado as long as no injuries or property damage result. The punishment is 6 months to 18 months in jail, and/or $500 to $5,000 in fines.
If someone does get hurt or if property gets damaged, inciting a riot is a class 5 felony. The sentence is 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or $1,000 to $100,000 in fines. The defendant may also be ordered to pay restitution to the victim(s) for any injuries or property damage.2
3. How can I fight the charges?
Four potential defenses to Colorado charges of riot incitement are the following:
- Less than five people. If the defendant revved up a crowd of four people or less, then incitement charges do not apply. Even if the riot consisted of five or more people, the defendant is responsible for only the people he or she specifically incited.
- No incitement. Giving an impassioned speech or airing grievances is not incitement, even if the audience decides to riot afterward. As long as the defendant’s words and actions are protected free speech or do not rise to the level of provoking rioting, then the district attorney should drop the incitement charges.
- Law enforcement misconduct. Criminal charges can potentially be dropped if police officers executed an unlawful search or seizure, committed entrapment, coerced a confession, or engaged in police brutality.
- Self-defense. Self-defense is an affirmative defense to inciting a riot.3 For instance if the defendant was being unlawfully attacked, stirring up other people to fight off the attackers could potentially justify the defendant’s incitement.
Note that it is not necessarily a defense to incitement charges that no rioting occurred. Incitement of a riot is still a criminal offense even if the riot never ends up occurring.
4. Is the criminal record sealable?
A Colorado conviction for inciting a riot can be sealed three years after the case ends. But if the charge gets dismissed, then there is no waiting period before the defendant can petition for a seal.4 Learn how to seal Colorado criminal records.
5. Related offenses
5.1. Arming rioters
People who knowingly arm rioters with deadly weapons or destructive devices – or who knowingly teach people to use them for rioting – face class 4 felony charges. Penalties for arming rioters (CRS 18-9-103) include 2 to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
5.2. Engaging in a riot
Engaging in a riot is usually a class 2 misdemeanor under CRS 18-9-104. Penalties include 3 to 12 months in jail and/or $250 to $1,000 in fines. But if there was a threat of a deadly weapon used in the course of rioting, engaging in a riot is class 4 felony. Penalties include 2 to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
5.3. Disobedience of public safety orders during riots
Under CRS 18-2-301, it is a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado if – during riot conditions or when a riot is impending – a person knowingly disobeys a peace officer or reasonable public safety order. Penalties include up to 6 months in jail and/or $50 to $750.
5.4. Disorderly conduct
Disorderly conduct (CRS 18-9-106) is a broad crime that encompasses breaching public peace, causing a public disturbance or fighting in a public place, or discharging a gun or displaying a deadly weapon. The offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a petty offense.
5.5. Obstructing highways or other passageways
The crime of obstructing public highways (CRS 18-9-107) is intentionally obstructing or barricading any publicly accessible road, walkway, or passageway. Blocking funeral access is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying $250 to $1,000 in fines and/or 3 to 12 months in jail. Otherwise, obstructing highways is a class 3 misdemeanor, carrying $50 to $750 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail.
5.6. Disrupting a lawful assembly
It is a misdemeanor to intentionally interfere with or obstruct a gathering of people. Disrupting a lawful assembly (CRS 18-9-108) is usually a class 3 misdemeanor, carrying $50 to $750 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail. But disrupting a funeral is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying $250 to $1,000 in fines and/or 3 months to 12 months in jail.
5.7. Criminal mischief
Arrested in Colorado? Contact us to discuss creating an attorney-client relationship. Our DUI and criminal defense lawyers serve clients throughout Colorado state, including Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and more.
Arrested in California? See our article on inciting a riot (PC 404.6).
- CRS 18-9-104. See also People v. Martinez, (Colo. App. 1985) 705 P.2d 9.
- CRS 18-9-104.
- People v. Mullins, (Colo. App. 2008) 209 P.3d 1147.
- CRS 24-72-701 – 708.