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Monday, July 7, 2014

Be Careful Where You Sit in Honolulu!

The Honolulu City Council is considering a proposed anti-loitering ordinance that would ban routinely sitting or lying on public sidewalks in Waikiki.  The ban, proposed by the Mayor of Honolulu, Rick Caldwell, has only been proposed for Waikiki, but the City Council is considering expanding the scope beyond Waikiki, to include the whole island.  The Council is also considering expanding the bill to make the ban effective 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the only exceptions during parades and protests.  Proponents of the bill argue that a 24 hour ban is necessary due to the presence of numerous 24 hour businesses in the area.  The goal of the bill is to clean up the tourist areas of Honolulu.

The “sit-lie” ban, as it is called, is patterned on a similar ordinance in Seattle.  However, critics are now concerned that expansion of the ban to all of the island, all of the time, opens the City up to potential legal challenges, as similar ordinances have faced First Amendment challenges.  The issue will become whether the sit-lie ban regulates conduct or free speech.  If the ban is found to regulate free speech, it will be found unconstitutional.

The Seattle sit-lie ban was both limited as to geographic scope, and was limited to certain places at certain times.  It has survived challenges due to its limited scope, as the 9th Circuit has found that the ordinance only regulated conduct.  However, a similar ordinance was struck down by the 9th Circuit in Los Angeles, as the court concluded that a 24 hour ban amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, which criminalized the homeless. 

If the bill is enacted into law, violators face fines up to $1000.00 and up to 30 days in jail.  The Council will review the bill at a future meeting.  

Post Authored by Erin Baker, Ancel Glink


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