Felony Rioting in Michigan: Charges, Penalties & Criminal Defense

Criminal attorney, David J. Kramer - gavel depicting felony rioting

Our country is in turmoil. At least that’s how it looks in some cities, and how it feels to some people, especially those innocent bystanders caught amid violence.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death – the Minnesota man who was arrested for forgery and died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for eight or nine minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe – protests, rioting, and violence have erupted in many of our nation’s major cities.

Our country is so politically divided; it’s difficult to find or understand the truth about what is going on.

We know this: there are many peaceful protests, marches, and demonstrations going on all over the country over inequality between races. Many of them continued into their 7th or 8th night.

We know that there has also been vandalism, rioting, looting, and violence in those same cities over the same period. Buildings and cars have been burned, police have been attacked, and people have been killed.

Rioting in Michigan

Here in Michigan, rioting broke out last weekend in downtown Grand Rapids. Rioters looted stores and burned buildings.

In Detroit, things got violent the second night. After midnight, the crowd throwing bricks and railroad spikes and officers eventually had to disperse the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets, then impose a curfew on Detroit’s citizens.

Not all of those who showed up were Detroit or even Michigan natives. Chief Craig has asked those not from Detroit to stay at home and do their protesting in their own backyards but has also talked about his intention to drop charges against some of those who were arrested.

Regardless of how laws are being enforced on the ground, as some governors and mayors are allowing riots to continue, many states do have anti-rioting laws.

A young man in Grand Rapids has been charged with rioting. It’s a felony that carries a potential 10-year prison sentence.

Michigan’s law notably passed in 1968. That was the year Detroit saw its most famous and damaging riot.

Here’s what Act 302 of 1968 says:

“It is unlawful and constitutes the crime of riot for 5 or more persons, acting in concert, to wrongfully engage in violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly cause or create a serious risk of causing public terror or alarm.”

The law also makes it a felony to incite riot. That means to encourage others to riot even if you are not doing it yourself.

At a state correctional facility (prison or jail), if only 3 people act in concert, it is considered a riot. The law also makes it a crime to assemble for the purpose of rioting.

What Rioting Laws Mean for You

If your actions within a group cause the general public to be terrified or alarmed, it is a crime, even if you didn’t hurt anyone or destroy property.

If you encourage others to cause alarm, it is a crime. And if you get caught planning with a group of people to riot, it is also a crime.

Will rioters in Detroit and elsewhere be arrested and charged?

It remains to be seen whether the violence in some places is going to be reigned-in. It seems more likely – given Detroit’s police response – that you could be arrested if you bring violence to Detroit.

If prosecutors don’t have a good case to make for rioting charges against you, they may bring other charges instead.


It’s not a stretch to say that most Michigan residents hope for peace and that they want improved race relations.

Detroit’s Mayor and Police Chief are doing everything in their power to make the city a welcoming place for peaceful protest. This includes not enforcing the curfew when protests remained peaceful – and quelling violence.

We can only hope and pray that people of goodwill throughout the state will come together.

The Best Defense – An Experienced Criminal Attorney

If you are facing charges related to rioting or protesting, please call my office today to explore your options for defense.

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