Ville Platte, ACLU drop curfew suit

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The city of Ville Platte and the American Civil Liberties Union have signed an agreement ending the ACLU’s lawsuit against a pedestrians-only curfew.

The city did not admit liability but will pay the ACLU nearly $16,900 in attorneys’ fees and costs and agreed that any future curfew will be the least restrictive needed to meet a “compelling need.”

“The simple fear of crime is not such a compelling need, and Ville Platte residents are now protected against future restrictions based on fear alone,” the ACLU said in a news release Thursday.

What would be a compelling need?

“Well, that’s the definition we are all looking for,” city attorney Eric LaFleur wrote in an email. “Our curfew was initiated after a rash of robberies and other crime related activity.”

He said a hurricane, serious power outage or similar incident would probably be acceptable reason for a curfew.

The original curfew “may have been justified. The length of time in which it was imposed created a constitutional problem,” he wrote.

U.S. District Judge Richard Haik signed the consent decree Thursday. City and ACLU lawyers had signed it Dec. 28.

A rash of break-ins and burglaries prompted the curfew, adopted in February 2011 and renewed regularly until October, when the city council voted to suspend it after the ACLU filed its lawsuit.

About 134 people were cited, arrested, fined or jailed for violating the curfew, the ACLU has said.

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