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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Backs Injunction on Adult-Business Ordinance

(CN) - The 7th Circuit upheld an order blocking Indianapolis from enforcing a requirement that adult bookstores close on Sundays and after midnight, citing a lack of evidence that the reduced hours decrease crime.

In 2003, Indianapolis passed amendments forcing adult bookstores to close on Sundays and between midnight and 10 a.m. during the rest of the week.

Four businesses subject to the new restrictions sued, claiming the revised ordinance violated their constitutional rights.

Last September, the Chicago-based appeals court struck down the restrictions, saying the city failed to produce "an iota of evidence" to support them.

Indianapolis had claimed the stricter regulations curbed prostitution, stealing, public masturbation and other crimes associated with adult businesses.

If the regulations do, in fact, reduce crime, the 7th Circuit suggested in its earlier ruling, the city should be able to prove it with empirical evidence. And if not, Indianapolis can't enforce the ordinance.

On remand, Indianapolis submitted a study showing that a dispersal ordinance for adult businesses in Sioux City, Iowa, reduced crime rates.

"The district court was skeptical, and entitled to be so, for three reasons," the appeals court wrote.

First, the study examined the effects of a dispersal ordinance, not an hours-of-operation ordinance, like the one in Indianapolis. The dispersal ordinance appeared to prevent thieves from targeting areas with high concentrations of adult bookstores, where customers often pay in cash. Simply closing bookstores would not necessarily lower the risk of robberies.

Second, "cities must protect readers from robbers rather than reduce risks by closing bookstores," the court wrote.

Finally, the study didn't control for other variables, such as the opening or closing of bars that might account for any change in crime rate.

Adult bookstores also offered evidence that the crime rate has not gone down -- and even increased in some areas -- since the ordinance went into effect.

The three-judge panel said the new data "imply that the change in the plaintiffs' business hours did not produce any measurable benefit."

The court upheld a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the ordinance pending trial.

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