ACLU of Arkansas challenges state’s criminal eviction law

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FILE – In this May 20, 2020, file photo, signs that read “No Job No Rent” hang from the windows of an apartment building during the coronavirus pandemic in Northwest Washington. The pandemic has shut housing courts and prompted authorities around the U.S. to initiate policies protecting renters from eviction. But not everyone is covered, and some landlords are turning to threats and harassment to force tenants out. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas is challenging the legality of the state’s criminal eviction law that punishes tenants with criminal charges for not paying rent.

The ACLU filed suit Monday, on behalf of 36-year-old Edrin Allen, a former factory worker who has been unable to pay his monthly rent since losing his job in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit states Allen has not been able to find work and has been denied unemployment.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the ACLU is asking U.S. District Judge Brian Miller to issue a temporary restraining order to keep Allen from being removed from his home until a trial can be held on the constitutionality of the statute.

“Arkansas is the only state where being late on the rent can result in a criminal prosecution – purely on the basis of a landlord’s say-so,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas interim executive director and legal director. “This law allows landlords to use the criminal process to get the upper hand in a matter for civil court, and it disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities who already suffer from over-policing and systemic discrimination in housing, health care, and employment. Poverty is not a crime and it is long past time for this cruel and unconstitutional law to be struck down.”

The complaint filed is online on the ACLU’s website. More information and pleadings are available on the ACLU’s website.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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