Criminalizing Speech in Public Areas.
In a joint stipulation approved by the U.S. District Court last week, the City of Albuquerque agreed not to enforce an ordinance that went into effect on December 6, 2017, that restricts speech on medians, freeway entrances, exit ramps, and other areas within the City while litigation about the ordinance is ongoing.
The ACLU of New Mexico and Goodwin Procter LLP filed a lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque in federal court on January 11, 2018, alleging that the ordinance is an unconstitutional attempt to eliminate panhandling by criminalizing speech in public areas where solicitation is common.
This ordinance has always been about pushing homeless people and poor people out of public view. We’re relieved that with this agreement in place Albuquerque’s most vulnerable residents will be able to exercise their constitutional rights without fear that they will be harassed, cited, or arrested by the police. Through our lawsuit, we’ll continue fighting to ensure the ordinance is declared unconstitutional and permanently stricken down.
- Maria Sanchez, ACLU NM Attorney
The joint stipulation prohibits law enforcement from arresting, charging, or prosecuting anyone pursuant to the ordinance. It further prohibits law enforcement from ordering anyone to leave any public place or refrain from panhandling, political advocacy, or similar activities or using the ordinance as a threat in an effort to convince an individual to leave a public place. The City agreed to publicize the terms of the stipulation to its employees, departments, and officers and to ensure they abide by its terms.
In turn, the ACLU and its five named plaintiffs in the lawsuit withdrew the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction filed in January and agreed to give the City until March 5, 2018 to respond to the complaint.
ACLU of New Mexico | Katie Hoeppner