Rifle holding on loitering ordinance | PostIndependent.com

Rifle holding on loitering ordinance

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

Like Carbondale, Rifle city staffers have said the Police Department is not enforcing a loitering for begging law that recently landed the two municipalities on an American Civil Liberties Union naughty list.

A Grand Junction ordinance against panhandling was struck down by a federal court in August last year. Since then the ACLU has listed 34 Colorado municipalities that still have loitering “for purposes of begging” laws, which the organization says have been deemed unconstitutional through the Grand Junction case.

Last year, after the court ruling, Rifle staff and the municipal prosecutor decided the law shouldn’t be enforced until the Legislature or a higher court takes some action clarifying the matter, Rifle City Manager Matt Sturgeon wrote in an email.

“There is a practical side to amending ordinances, and if you think a higher authority is going to take action on an issue you wait to take into consideration its position.”

And prior to that it wasn’t a prevalent citation. The city has issued citations on this ordinance only four times total, wrote Sturgeon. The most recent case was in 2012.

The Rifle municipal code lists the offense as a Class C municipal offense (punishable at maximum by a $100 fine), which Sgt. Sam Stewart, serving as Rifle’s acting police chief, said is the city’s least serious offense.

Stewart said the loitering for begging law has been on the Rifle books at least since before his 15 years with the Police Department, but he was unsure when exactly it was passed by ordinance.

Carbondale town staff plans to introduce to the board of trustees an amendment to their loitering law this fall.

Though it will ultimately be up to the Rifle City Council, there’s no reason to leave something on the books if its not going to be enforced, said Stewart. “When a federal judge says something is unconstitutional, it’s a big thing.


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