Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hoodie Emergency In Oklahoma, Fines and Prison

Hooded and Intimidating:
Wearing this $3,480 mink coat could
get you arrested in Oklahoma.
January 4, 2015 - Oklahoma may soon clarify and strengthen an existing ban on wearing hoods in public. Violators could be fined from $50 to $500 for wearing a hoodie (a hooded sweatshirt), if one state senator has his way. As if that wasn't strange enough, he actually wants to declare an emergency to deal with hoodies.

The law is Senate Bill 13, and it's intended as an amendment to an existing law that already bans the wearing of hoods and other types of disguises while committing a crime. Oklahoma has had a partial ban on hoods since the early 1920s. According to Oklahoma City NBC affiliate KFOR, the law was "originally drafted to help combat crimes from the Klu-Klux-Klan."

But now, State Senator Don Barrington, (Republican, District 31; bio), is sponsoring a bill that would almost completely ban hoodies in public if if passes in February this year. Barrinnton's bill is actually intended to amend "21 O.S. 2011, Section 1301, which relates to masks, hoods and disguises; modifying certain restrictions; and declaring an emergency."

Yes, it says "declaring an emergency."  We'll come back to that but first let's see what Barrington's bill says in Section 1.

It shall be unlawful for any person in this state:
A. To wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment; or

B. To intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.

The problem with that, as pointed out by Daily Caller, "is that the immediately preceding paragraph in the existing law, titled 21 OS 1301, makes it illegal for anyone 'to wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime' or for 'coercion, intimidation or harassment'."

Civil rights advocates, reports Daily Caller, "worry that the two clauses read together could give police the authority to arrest someone for wearing a simple hooded sweatshirt."

Allow us to point out another problem: Interpretation by cops. How will this law will be enforced by law enforcement officers? Even handedly among all age groups, races and sexes? Reality suggests that such would not be the case.

If a cop sees somebody wearing a hoodie sweathshirt or hooded parka, or a ski mask, scarf or other "covering," how in hell can he/she know -- as that person walks down the street or sits in a diner -- if their "purpose" is coercion, intimidation or harassment? To know that would require being able to know someone's intentions, and unless Oklahoma has perfected mind reading, that's not possible.

The law makes exceptions, of course: They include kids being kids on Halloween, people going to or from masquerade parties, protection from the weather, and to those participating in the parades or exhibitions of minstrel troupes, circuses, sporting groups, mascots or other amusements or dramatic shows. (There are more exceptions detailed in the proposed bill.)

As for the emergency declaration in Section 2 of Barrington's bill:
It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

This is apparently such an urgent and widespread problem in Oklahoma that Barrington wants to declare an emergency and implement the law the moment it passes (if it passes) in February. Time's a wasting, you know, because even now someone might be wearing a ski mask as he tries to walk from the strip club to his car without being recognized by his neighbors. God forbid. The horror.

It's not OK: State Sen. Don Barrington
Barrington, chair of the Senate's Public Safety Committee, says that "The intent of Senate Bill 13 is to make businesses and public places safer by ensuring that people cannot conceal their identities for the purpose of crime or harassment," he says.

Really? Imagine this: A man wearing a hooded sweatshirt is in a restaurant. It's a cold day, and he keeps his "hoodie" over his head while eating. His meal is not satisfactory, however, and he complains firmly but civilly to his server. The server takes offense, calls the cops, and accuses the customer of harassment while hooded.

Punishment for violating the law would be "by a fine of not less than Fifty Dollars ($50.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not exceeding one (1) year, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Constitutional issues are unavoidable with laws pertaining to what we can and cannot wear. Think Progress reminds us that "CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin took on the issue when an Indiana mall banned the garment in March" of last year. Hostin said that a ban on hoodies "is about the pretext of being able to stop young African-American males,” she said. "Hoodie is code for ‘thug’ in many places and I think businesses shouldn’t be in the business of telling people what to wear. The Fourteenth Amendment protects us from this."

In theory, maybe, but 10 other states have similar bans on masks and head coverings, Fourteenth Amendment be damned.

Also See: State Codes Related To Wearing Masks