August 3, 2010 – Assembly Member O’Donnell is pleased to announce that Governor Paterson has signed Assembly Bill A5537 into law. The bill repeals numerous unconstitutional statutes regarding loitering and protects New York City from immense fines threatened by the U.S. District Court for continuing to enforce the unconstitutional provisions.
The loitering statutes disproportionately targeted panhandlers, the homeless, and gay men, and were first found unconstitutional by a federal court in 1992. However, because the statutes remained on the law books, New York City police continued to enforce the provisions in violation of the constitutional rights of estimated tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Countless innocent individuals were swept into the penal system.
This past April, the U.S. District Court held New York City in contempt for continuing to issue summons based on the unconstitutional statutes. After a six month grace period, the city would be fined $500 for every summons it issued under the antiquated law. The fine would increase by $500 every three months to a maximum of $5,000 per incident. Given the large number of individuals arrested under these statutes, the city was facing a heavy financial burden.
O’Donnell remarked, “This law repeals shameful provisions of New York City law that were used to needlessly prosecute some of the most vulnerable members of our community and violate their constitutional rights. Our city could ill afford to continue paying the human cost imposed on these citizens by keeping the statutes on the books, and certainly could not afford the impending fines that were looming this fall.”
2010 marked the second time the Assembly passed Bill A5537.