Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Cincinnati loses OTR case in U.S. Supreme Court



By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Cincinnati's appeal of an Ohio court ruling against the city law that created a drug-exclusion zone in Over-the-Rhine.

        The court's decision lets stand an Ohio Supreme Court ruling in October that the law is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of movement.

        City Council created the drug-exclusion zone in 1996 in the neighborhood, which at the time accounted for about 20 percent of the city's drug crime.

        People arrested on drug offenses could be barred from the neighborhood for 90 days and for one year if convicted.

        The intent of the law was to discourage repeat offenders from returning to the drug trade.

        “This was a way to help restore the quality of the neighborhood,” said Richard Ganulin, an assistant city solicitor.

        George Burnett, convicted in 1998 for possession of drug paraphernalia, was ordered to stay out of Over-the-Rhine for a year, but police spotted him in the neighborhood a few months later. He was arrested and convicted of criminal trespass.

        Mr. Burnett challenged his trespass conviction before an appeals court and lost. He then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled 6-1 in his favor. The state court found that the city had a compelling interest in reducing drug crime but that the law placed an onerous restriction on movement.

        “A person subject to the exclusion ordinance may not enter a drug-exclusion zone to speak with counsel, to visit family, to attend church, to receive emergency medical care, to go to a grocery store, or just to stand on a street corner and look at a blue sky,” Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer wrote.

       



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