Ville Platte Curfew Violates First Amendment Rights, Says ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
October 5, 2011 12:00 am

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Lawsuit Filed To Strike down law keeping people Indoors at Night

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NEW ORLEANS, LA – The ACLU of Louisiana has filed suit to invalidate a Ville Platte ordinance that requires city residents to remain off the streets after 10 pm. The ordinance, a “walking curfew” that applies to pedestrians but not to drivers, was first enacted last year on a temporary basis and has been repeatedly renewed for additional short-term intervals. The penalty for violating the curfew is a fine of $200 or jail time. Art Sampson, the plaintiff in this action, has been prevented from visiting relatives and friends as a pedestrian out of fear of arrest and a stiff fine, and has sought for many months to persuade the City Council not to renew the curfew.

The ACLU of Louisiana sued the mayor and city council members of Ville Platte, seeking an order barring enforcement of the curfew and an ultimate ruling that the curfew is illegal. “The people of Ville Platte have been forced to remain indoors in violation of their rights to pursue their activities,” said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director. “This law makes criminals out of Ville Plate residents who simply want to walk their dogs, go around the corner to visit a neighbor, or walk to a nearby store to buy needed supplies.”

Because this is a walking curfew only, the restriction disproportionately affects lower income residents. Those who can drive to their destinations, and who have off-street parking, retain freedom of movement while those without cars, or who must park on the street, fear arrest and fines. “Ville Platte has wrongly detained scores of people simply for walking to their destinations,” continued Esman. “Punishing people for relying on their feet rather than a car for transportation makes no sense and has a disproportionate impact on those who can afford it the least.”

Since the walking curfew was enacted, the City of Ville Platte has collected thousands of dollars in fines from residents simply because they were on the sidewalk after 10 pm. “The city’s budget shouldn’t be balanced on the backs of people who have done nothing wrong,” said Justin Harrison, ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney. “It’s time for the people of Ville Platte to regain the freedom to go where they want whenever they want.”

A copy of the ACLU’s lawsuit is available here:

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