ACLU Challenges Town’s “Walking Curfew”

The ACLU of Louisiana has filed suit to invalidate a town’s “walking curfew.” Ville Platte, a Louisiana town of approximately 8,000 (map), opted to enact the ordinance after a string of car break-ins. The law requires pedestrians to stay off the streets from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weeknights and from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends, however driving at those times is permitted. Violators faced fines of $200, 30 days in jail, or both. A local community activist tried convincing the city council to repeal the ordinance, turning to the ACLU after his attempts fell on deaf ears.

Claiming violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the ACLU suit says the town has not seen a decrease in crime since it enacted the ordinance, nor was crime bad enough to warrant the new law. It further claims the restriction disproportionately affects lower income residents, as those with cars and off-street parking retain freedom of movement while those without cars or with on-street parking fear arrest and fines. As a result “arrests and imprisonments for curfew violations [. . .] have skyrocketed [emphasis in original], filling the Ville Platte’s jails with otherwise innocent civilians and creating a monetary windfall for the City and thus, a tremendous incentive to continue the curfew.”

The case was filed Wednesday, October 5; by Thursday the mayor and police chief of Ville Platte agreed to temporarily suspend enforcing the city’s pedestrian curfew.


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