[Hpn] 'Squatter' law must be thrown out, replaced ~Revisited~
William Charles Tinker
Thu, 23 Mar 2006 18:47:06 -0500
'Squatter' law must be thrown out, replaced
This is a classic case of good intentions gone awry.
Concerned about "squatters" who took over Mokule'ia beaches and made them
their semi-permanent living quarters, legislators passed a law.
The law, now Act 50, states that a police officer or any other authorized
official can ban a person from public property for a year, simply on their
No court hearing or due process system. Simply a "get out of here" edict.
If the individual comes back anyway, he or she would be liable for citation
for criminal trespass.
The idea was to give enforcement officials a new tool when folks simply
refused to leave public property when they were asked.
Unfortunately, as a lawsuit backed by the ACLU now contends, the law is
subject to abuse.
The ACLU has filed on behalf of a client who was thrown out of a public
library and banned for a year because he was accessing a gay Internet
resource site on one of the library's computers.
That ban, the lawsuit says, directly violates the patron's First Amendment
Attorney Gen. Mark Bennett says he believes the law will be upheld in court.
Simply because a law is misused or misunderstood does not make it
unconstitutional on its face.
And of course that is true.
But the potential for misuse of this particular statute is so great that the
state should abandon any thought of defending it.
For instance, what if demonstrators at the state Capitol could be told they
are unwelcome and banned for a year?
Unlikely? Surely. But possible under Act 50? Yes, entirely so.
This law should be chucked out and the state should revisit the underlying
issue in a way that better meets the constitutional test.
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