ACLU-DC Applauds D.C. Council for Passing Fare Evasion Decriminalization Bill

December 6, 2018 3:15 pm

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WASHINGTON – The D.C. Council tonight passed Bill 22-408, the Fare Evasion Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2018.

The ACLU of the District of Columbia commends the passage of the bill, which changes the penalty for fare evasion from a criminal to civil offense, punishable by a $50 fine. Currently, fare evasion is a crime that can result in arrest, jail time, a criminal record, and/or a fine of up to $300. The bill also reduces to civil infractions other minor offenses on public transit that are currently categorized as crimes, including eating and drinking, playing a radio, and operating roller skates, among others.

The following can be attributed to Nassim Moshiree, Policy Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia:

“Today’s vote is a significant victory for criminal justice reform here in the District. We’re gratified a majority of the Council saw past WMATA’s last-minute misinformation campaign and recognized that low-level offenses like fare evasion are not a threat to public safety, that enforcement unfairly targets black riders, and that our current system of criminalization is both ineffective and excessive.

We are especially troubled by WMATA’s assertion that it needs to retain a criminal penalty so it can continue stopping customers. This is a naked admission that our transit agency relies on pretextual stops and racially profiles riders, something that should trouble everyone, not just government officials.

Our immense gratitude to Councilmember Charles Allen for shepherding this bill in the council, to Councilmember Trayon White for introducing it, and to all of the Councilmembers who made powerful statements of support for the bill at the second vote tonight. This is a proud moment for D.C. We and our more than 40 partners District-wide look forward to working with the Council to make D.C. a more just and equitable place for all residents.

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