Arrested For… Walking?

In Atlanta, Georgia, police can arrest you for just walking down the sidewalk.

Or hanging out.

It happens mostly in poor black neighborhoods. Which is why some call this offence “walking while black.”

The charge is “DC-6” — Disorderly Conduct in a Known Drug Area. Most people think “disorderly conduct” involves, well, acting disorderly.

But that’s not the case.

According to the DC-6 ordinance: “It shall be unlawful for any person [to] … be in or about any place where gaming or the illegal sale or possession of alcoholic beverages or narcotics or dangerous drugs is practiced, allowed or tolerated[.]”

In other words, a person can be arrested simply for being in what police
consider a “known drug area” — even if he or she is just walking down the
street or chatting with a neighbor.

And what’s a “known drug area?” Well, that’s another problem. It’s apparently anywhere police say it is, according to a police employee interviewed by theAtlanta newspaper Creative Loafing. The employee said there is no official list of “known drug areas.” Instead, it’s “all up to the officer’s discretion.”

“It’s one of those catch-all laws that police use when they can’t think of any
other charge,” says American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Gerry Weber. “It’s a street-clearing device.”

DC-6 arrests are far from rare. In fact, according to Creative Loafing, it is
the most frequent non-traffic offense cited by Atlanta police. Over 7,500 DC-6 arrests — about 22 per day — were made in 2006.

Weber says the ACLU is seeking the right case for a legal challenge. With 22 arrests per day, that shouldn’t be hard.

Walking unmolested down the street. Another freedom lost to the Drug War?