ACLU Urges State High Court to Consider Cincinnati Drug Zone Ordinance

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
February 7, 2000 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND, OH — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Ohio Supreme Court, urging the justices to review a Cincinnati law that banned individuals arrested for drug offenses from walking down public streets in certain Ohio neighborhoods.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ruled — in a challenge brought by ACLU volunteer attorneys Bernard Wong and Robert Gertzweiler — that the law was unconstitutional, saying it violated the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Four weeks before the federal court order, however, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance, and the exclusion of a Cincinnati man based on a drug conviction. The ACLU has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to take that case, which is being appealed by the Hamilton County Public Defender.

“The problems with ordinances such as this is that they put added power to punish in the hands of the police,” said Raymond Vasvari, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio.

“People can be excluded from who sections of the city, and denied the right to see relatives, go to work, or even visit their lawyer, solely on the basis of police suspicion,” Vasvari said. “Our constitution does not allow police to act as judge, jury and executioner, and does not allow even those convicted of crimes to be banished from the streets as in ancient times.”

The briefs filed today urge the Ohio Supreme Court to review the case. If the court takes the case, later briefs will address the issue on its merits. For now, the federal court decision blocks future enforcement of the ordinance.

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