Drug crimes are taken seriously here in Colorado, but recently the Denver Police Department has taken drug crime consequences a bit too far by actually banning people from city parks.
In September 2016, the city of Denver issued a directive stating that Denver Police Department officers could ban anyone accused of using drugs in a city park or on the Cherry Creek trail for up to 90 days.
After the directive had been in effect for over a month, at least 23 people had been banned from parks.
Back in February, a county court judge ruled that the directive was unconstitutional, and just this past month, a Denver District Court judge upheld the ruling.
Let’s look at why this directive was initiated in the first place, how it’s unconstitutional, and what could potentially happen next for anyone facing drug crime charges in our parks.
Denver Issued Park Ban Directive to Combat Drug Use
Denver’s park ban directive came about after a number of overdoses occurred in parks and along Cherry Creek trail. After the directive went into effect, the Parks and Recreation department hired a contractor to clean up the areas and collected over 3,000 needles and other trash.
Before the ban was in place, Denver7 took a one-hour ride along the Cherry Creek trail and discovered five used needles. After the ban was in the place, Denver7 took the same route and found only three used needles. They did notice, though, that there were a lot more people out and about.
Denver7 spoke to a few trail users and all of them seemed to agree that along with seeing less used needles, the areas are also cleaner and feel safer. Homeless advocates, however, said the directive was merely displacing the homeless – who most likely have nowhere else to go but the city’s parks – instead of addressing the problem head on.
Why Is Denver’s Park Ban Unconstitutional?
Troy Holm was one of the people banned from Denver’s parks after he was caught allegedly smoking marijuana in Commons Park. Holm was cited for the marijuana use, and when he showed up again in Commons Park three days later, another officer charged him with trespassing because he was in violation of his park ban.
Holm, who was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado, then filed a motion to dismiss all of his charges, which is when a county court judge decided that the park ban directive was unconstitutional because it didn’t give Holm his due process rights.
Not only was Holm not given the time to defend himself against the drug use allegations, according to the judge, Colorado’s Constitution gives people the “natural, essential and inalienable right” to enter parks. The Colorado Supreme Court has also said it is a fundamental right for people to have access to parks.
So the directive, as it was written and put into effect, violated both his due process rights and his right to be allowed to enter a park.
What’s the Future of Denver’s Park Ban Directive?
While there is currently no park ban directive in effect, the Parks and Recreation Department is working on a new directive that will “make adjustments to enact a permanent rule and regulation that allows suspensions in parks for drug related activity.”
It’s unclear how they will get around the unconstitutionality of the first directive, but if you find yourself facing charges due to drug use in our city’s parks, reach out to an experienced Colorado drug crimes attorney to beat the charges and make sure your rights aren’t being violated.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.