The ACLU of Louisiana 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. 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.
Jan 17 2013 - VICTORY!
A judge from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has signed off on a consent decree under which the City has agreed not to enact future curfews without a compelling need.
From February 11 through October 13, 2011, the City of Ville Platte had a curfew that prohibited walking outside after 10 pm. After more than 100 people were cited and, in many cases, jailed, for no more than walking the streets at night, local resident Arthur Sampson filed suit to have the oppressive ordinance struck down. After the lawsuit was filed the City terminated the curfew and has now agreed not to reinstate it except under the most limited and compelling circumstances.
The consent decree specifies that future curfews will be only "the least restrictive measure necessary to achieve a compelling need." The simple fear of crime is not such a compelling need, and Ville Platte residents are now protected against future restrictions based on fear alone.