Columbus City Council Considers Tougher Loitering Law
(Columbus)--The Columbus City Council are considering this evening an improved loitering in aid of a drug offense ordinance that prosecutors believe will allow police officers to effectively investigate suspected criminal activity without violating the constitutional rights of those being questioned. Ordinance 0262-2012, sponsored by Councilmember Michelle M. Mills, chair of the Public Safety & Judiciary Committee, amends Section 2317.50 of the Columbus City Code, 1959, pertaining to loitering in aid of a drug offense by adding clarity to the definitions of elements of a prima facie case for this type of suspected criminal activity. According to the legislation, the code change improves on current language by differentiating between lawful activities and loitering in aid of drug offense or intent to participate in illegal activities.
“The new law is a result of a series of community meetings, public hearings and hard work by the men and women of City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer, Jr.’s office,” said Councilmember Mills. “It has always been the City’s goal to balance the rights of our residents and the needs of our police officers when it comes to protecting the community.”
The ordinance also increases the penalties for all loitering in aid of drug offense violations from an M4, punishable with up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, to an M1, punishable with up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. It also requires 10 days jail time, without eligibility for work release if the violation takes place within 1,000 feet of specific community facilities, such as playgrounds and schools. It is also important to note that no arrest will be made until a suspect has an opportunity to explain his or her conduct or actions to a police officer.