Yet another criminal eviction case has failed, this time in Poinsett County, on constitutional grounds. It’s at least the third case criminal eviction charged reversed this year. It has also been a year in which the legislature refused to do anything about the state’s regressive landlord-tenant laws, judged the worst in the country in part because of their unique reliance on criminal eviction.
Circuit Judge John Fogleman ruled that enforcement of the statute unconstitutionally burdened a defendant of a jury trial. He dismissed the charge.
The case arose in Harrisburg. A landlord accused tenants of non-payment of rent on a house and gave them 10 days to vacate. When they did not, they were charged under the criminal eviction law and convicted of misdemeanors in district court. The appeal to circuit court brought Fogleman’s ruling.
Fogleman faulted a 2001 amendment to the law for requiring a defendant to deposit the amount of disputed rent before entering a plea of not guilty and increasing the penalty if convicted. “The Court agrees that the statute provides insufficient procedural protections to comport with the due process guarantees in the Unites States Constitution,” Fogleman wrote.
I reported earlier today on cases in Woodruff and Pulaski counties.