Rifle amending loitering law | PostIndependent.com

Rifle amending loitering law

Ryan Hoffman

A little-known and essentially unused provision criminalizing loitering for the purpose of begging in Rifle appears to be on its way out.

City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved an amendment striking the line, broadly known as a loitering for begging law, from the Rifle municipal code. The law classified loitering for the purpose of begging as a Class C municipal offense punishable by a maximum fine of $100.

The provision recently landed Rifle on a list of 34 Colorado municipalities with similar laws that the American Civil Liberties Union compiled.

A federal judge struck down a Grand Junction ordinance against panhandling last September, declaring it unconstitutional and a violation of a person’s First Amendment rights.

The ACLU list, which also included Carbondale, served to call out cities and towns for what it called “outdated ordinances.”

While the ordinance garnered media attention, Kathy Pototsky, Rifle municipal court administrator, informed council that Rifle’s law had been used only four times during its entire existence and hasn’t been used since 2012 ­— facts previously reported by the Post Independent.

The issue came up last year when a Rifle officer inquired about the ordinance. After a little research, Pototsky issued a notice to Rifle police officers informing them not to enforce the loitering for begging law.

The ruling on Grand Junction’s ordinance soon followed Pototsky’s notice, a fact that garnered some appreciation from councilors who thanked Pototsky for being vigilant. Aside from the appreciation, there was little discussion by council prior to its unanimous vote to strike the line from the ordinance.

The amended ordinance does not affect other provisions such as loitering “for the purpose of unlawful gambling with cards, dice or other gambling paraphernalia.”

The changes will come back before council for second reading and likely adoption at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Carbondale officials have said they plan to present an amended ordinance to town trustees this fall. As was the case in Rifle, Carbondale has not enforced its loitering for begging law, town officials previously said.

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