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ACLU Opposes Gang Injunction

Says It Would Restrict Constitutionally Protected Behavior


Weighing in against Santa Barbara’s proposed gang injunction, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has filed legal papers against City Hall’s efforts to get a preliminary action passed in the next two months. ACLU attorney Peter Bibring objected that the proposed injunction would restrict otherwise constitutionally protected behavior ​— ​“lawful loitering” among other things ​— ​of alleged gang members throughout 27 percent of the city. Bibring contended that no “clear and convincing evidence” has been presented to justify this restriction on civil liberties. Injunctions in other cities throughout California, he pointed out, were restricted to much smaller geographical areas. In one city, he said, it was four square blocks.

For those 30 individuals named in the proposed injunction, he stated, the “safety zones” articulated by City Hall include their homes, the homes of their friends and relatives, their schools, places of employment, restaurants they patronize, and “nearly every place they conduct their daily lives.” Many of the city parks declared off-limits to those named, Bibering asserted, have a limited to nonexistent record of gang-related crime and activity. In addition, he argued that the proposed injunction would allow city police to arrest any gang members with whom the named individuals associate. This, he argued, constituted a violation of due process because those prospective arrestees will not be given an opportunity to defend themselves prior to their arrest.

City Attorney Sarah Knecht did not respond to the specifics of the ACLU motion but said she was opposing its admittance on the grounds that it was premature. Typically, she said, such arguments are entertained only during the appeals process of a case. The gang injunction next goes before Judge Colleen Sterne on February 10, but it remains uncertain when the merits of the case will actually be argued. Attorneys for the prosecution say they’re ready, willing, and able to make their case at a hearing scheduled for March 14. But some attorneys for the defense contend they have yet to be given all the documentary evidence needed to evaluate the claims against their clients and are pushing to schedule the hearing at a later date. The gang injunction was first proposed more than three years ago.

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