The law allowing the City of Eugene to bar local residents from downtown is set to expire this fall amid controversy and a lack of support.
The law allows police to request individuals be banned from setting foot downtown when they have been charged with a minor crimes. Exclusion zones were first implemented as an alternative to jailing individuals in order to cut down on overcrowding but violating the exclusion order is itself a misdemeanor and can lead to jail time anyway. A short term exclusion order of 90 days can be placed on someone before they’re actually convicted in a municipal court. It’s similar to when someone gets a speeding ticket but in a criminal case. That also means the city isn’t required to provide an attorney to those affected by an exclusion request.
“At its root these exclusion zones are a way to get around the due process protections guaranteed in criminal cases.” Executive Director of the Eugene ACLU David Fidanque said.
“It’s a civil procedure not a criminal procedure. They don’t have the right to an attorney, the right to a jury trial or any of the rights one would have in a criminal case. That’s the whole point; to avoid the criminal process.”
If the Eugene Police Department attempts to renew the law or make it permanent, the Lane County ACLU is ready to oppose it; but would be willing to take the initiative on the issue in the event a “particularly egregious” case came to its attention.
Fidanque is confidant the bill be allowed to expire now that Claire Syrett, a former ACLU member who has lobbied against the exclusion zone, has joined the city council.
“Whether it will expire with after some further discussion with [the city] council, I don’t know yet, it’s too soon to know. I do think it’s in its last months.”
The Eugene Chamber of Commerce was a major proponent of the exclusion zone and funds a private security force that operates downtown. President of the Eugene Chamber of Commerce David Hauser says he is “almost certain” the law will expire and described the law as a “less than perfect public safety tool.”
He has since joined a community task force in order to develop alternatives to the exclusion zone. A preliminary list of ideas includes increased graffiti charges, expanding the use of private security and installing cameras.
The exclusion zone is set to expire November 30th.