Police Chief addresses vagrancy concerns, changes in law

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Multiple concerned citizens called the authorities concerning the welfare of this woman lying on the street corner last week. Times photo

Juanice Gray | Editor
Last week, Natchitoches Police officers encountered an individual lying/getting into the roadway prompting calls from concerned citizens.  Officers responded and asked the individual to not get in the roadway and the individual complied.  The individual went to a local hotel out by the Interstate.  “No further action was necessary at that time because the person complied,” said Chief Nikeo Collins.

THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE JUNE 9, 2022 PRINT EDITION.

The following day, the same individual returned to the same or similar location and produced the same concern.  When officers responded the individual refused to comply and was charged with Obstructing a Passageway.  The individual also resisted arrest but was not charged by the officers.  A Deputy Coroner was called because of concerns for the individual’s mental health and the individual was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
The question of vagrancy arose with the situation and Chief Collins clarified the matter.
“On June 12, 2020, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill drafted by the LA Legislature that repealed the State of Louisiana Statute for La R.S. 14:107 Vagrancy.  The law was drafted and repealed for several reasons including jurisprudence (case decisions) that have deemed vagrancy laws as unconstitutional due to their vagueness and overreach.  As law enforcement we are tasked with enforcing laws but we are also responsible to be aware of court decisions that render laws mute or unenforceable.
Police Chief Nikeo Collins

Although court cases can render a law unenforceable the law may not be removed from a printed documentation instantly.  This is usually because the removal or repeal requires that legislative action is taken to remove the item.  There may also be a stay granted or a decision to hold off on the removal of the law due to a pending appeal.  Repeals take place all the time and this makes it easy for some laws to remain on City and Parish Ordinances list despite the rulings and decisions of higher courts and the State.” 
Collins said their legal updates, in which they are required to participate in every year to keep POST certifications up to date, usually point out what laws have been changed and why.  
“In this case our officers have been told two years in a row that Vagrancy cannot be enforced due to it being ruled unconstitutional and also not a repealed law in the State of Louisiana,” he said.