On a warm night in America, a man staggers home from a night of heavy drinking. Feeling the need to relieve himself, but finding no bathrooms around, he avails himself of the nearest bush. From out of nowhere, the police arrive and arrest the man, who is a known nuisance, specifically for peeing in the bushes. When brought before a judge, rather than jail time, the man is banished from the city.
This is not an account from primitive, colonial America but instead, the vision for Boulder, Colo. that Councilman Macon Cowles laid out in an email to his colleagues, The Daily Caller reported. He wrote that while thinking about Shakespeare and the problem (cost) of incarcerating people for nuisance crimes, the idea of banishment seemed to make more sense. Rather than put someone in jail for 10 or 12 days, he or she would be banished from the city limits for that time.
In the email, Cowles wrote, “It seems a double-hit that citizens should have to endure repeated acts of criminal behavior that are offenses against the people who live here,” who then have to pay to incarcerate the offenders. “There are constitutional limits to banishment,” he admitted, but he does not think that the legal challenges citizens could make to contest the banishment would be heard by the higher courts that rule on such matters.
It is unconstitutional to banish a U.S. citizen from the country. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren called the practice worse than torture. Still, selective banishment has its place in the country. Sex offenders are banished from areas where there might be a high concentration of potential victims, such as schools or parks. It is not uncommon for a judge to order an offender (usually a resident of another city/state) to leave town and not come back.
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As with any new (or old, in this case) idea, it will all come down to enforcement. Cowles’ proposal is in light of revelations that Boulder has a repeat-offender problem with these minor infractions. It is unlikely that any serious legal challenges would come from this unless a civil rights watchdog group takes up someone’s case as a way to force a higher court to rule on the law. In the meantime, if you are staggering home from a night of drinking (or legal pot-smoking?) and feel the need to relieve yourself: hold it.