DENVER – The City of Colorado Springs informed the ACLU of Colorado by letter last Friday that it is dismissing charges, vacating outstanding fines and sentencing requirements, and voiding warrants in 375 active panhandling-related cases.
The announcement was a response to an ACLU letter from September 15th informing the City that the police department, city attorney’s office, and Municipal Court had been illegally enforcing the City’s panhandling laws against homeless and impoverished people who had not violated those laws.
ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein issued the following statement:
“We appreciate the City Attorney’s prompt, thorough, and positive response to the ACLU’s reporting that homeless and impoverished individuals had been inappropriately cited, prosecuted, and sentenced for violating panhandling laws that they didn’t actually violate.
“The City’s two panhandling ordinances specifically exempt individuals who engage in passive solicitation—meaning that people who merely display a sign inviting charity do not violate the ordinances. Nevertheless, an ACLU investigation found that all three major arms of the Colorado Springs municipal justice system – police, prosecutors, and judges – had routinely enforced the ordinances against people who engage in only passive solicitation. The City’s practice had resulted in poor people being fined and imprisoned – for as much as 90 days – under circumstances that could not be legally or morally justified.
“In addition to re-training police, the City has appropriately taken corrective action with regard to hundreds of pending cases by quashing warrants, dismissing prosecutions, and vacating pending fines and sentences of probation.”
Read the City’s response letter from Oct. 30: http://static.aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Letter-from-Colorado-Springs-City-Attorney.pdf
Visit the ACLU of Colorado case page: http://aclu-co.org/court-cases/colorado-springs-unlawful-enforcement-of-panhandling-laws/
Visit the ACLU of Colorado Criminalization of Homelessness campaign page: http://aclu-co.org/category/campaign-issues/criminalization-of-homelessness-campaign-issues/