LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles Police Department unconstitutionally expands the reach of gang injunctions to impose "probation-like conditions" on thousands of people who are not gang members, a Youth Justice Coalition claims in a federal class action.
The Youth Justice Coalition and two men claim the city and its police force's repeated violations of due process disproportionately affect men of color. Plaintiffs Peter Arellano and Jose Reza claim police subjected them to "anti-gang" injunctions without notice, and that the orders affect their entire families.
Los Angeles and its police have obtained 46 anti-gang injunctions, by default, because gangs are not legal entities, the plaintiffs' attorneys with the ACLU say in the complaint. The injunctions cover more than 15 percent of the city. Police use the orders to stop gang members from engaging in lawful activities, such as associating with friends or family members, drinking in public or dressing in gang clothing or symbols.
People who violate the court orders face arrest, fines, and up to six months in jail.
The Youth Justice Coalition seeks class certification for almost 10,000 people they say were served under the injunctions without due process or an opportunity to challenge the allegations that they are gang members.
"Without any prior notice or opportunity to contest the allegations of gang membership, the city serves such individuals with these injunctions that subject them to arrest for such ordinary activities as appearing in public with friends and family, working alongside other members of the neighborhood, or wearing the clothes they choose," the complaint states.
The Ninth Circuit ruled in Vasquez v. Rackauckas (2013) that the Orange County District Attorney office had unconstitutionally enforced gang injunctions.
In the new complaint the ACLU says: "The City of Los Angeles has refused to abide by the holding of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in that case and fails to afford individuals with due process before enforcing gang injunctions against them."
ACLU staff attorney Carmen Iguina accused the LAPD and City Attorney's Office of flaunting "one of the most basic principles of fairness in American law."
"Police and prosecutors shouldn't be able to decide to arrest a person for ordinary activity like walking down the street with a friend or drinking a beer in a restaurant, just because they think someone is a gang member. Due process means that the government can't restrict a person's freedom without a hearing or other opportunity to be heard," Iguina said.
The complaint "asks the court to prohibit enforcement of the city's gang injunctions until the city provides adequate process and to declare that subjecting people to injunctions in this fashion violates U.S. and California constitutional law," the ACLU said in a statement.
City Attorney's Office spokesman Rob Wilcox said his office had not been served and declined to comment.
LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said she could not comment on pending litigation.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.