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Public nuisance laws punish women for calling 911

In many cities across Illinois and the rest of the nation, women who call the police to report domestic violence by boyfriend and husbands, risk becoming a victim a second time to a system that may deem them a nuisance and force their eviction from their home.

The problem is many cities have public nuisance laws that include within that definition of public nuisance, someone who calls 911 more than a certain number of times within a period. And the remedy for that "violation" is to force the landlord to evict the person, usually a woman, from the property.

These ordinances were drafted with the intent of forcing landlords to evict drug dealers and other criminal undesirables from their property. The unintended consequence is to punish women who call the police on issues involving domestic abuse and violence.

The pressure is applied to the landlords by threatening to revoke their rental licenses. While the police may have difficulty sorting out the issues involved in a domestic violence call, landlords are hopelessly ill equipped to deal with these domestic violence issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing a city in Pennsylvania on the grounds that the disorderly behavior ordinance is unconstitutional. The claim is that it violates the right of petition clause of the First Amendment, by limiting the right to petition law enforcement.

If you have suffered domestic violence it is important to speak with someone and obtain help. An attorney can help advise you on what is necessary to obtain an order of protection and other steps to can take to protect yourself and your family.

Source:, "Public Nuisance, What happens when calling 911 could cost you your home," Dahlia Lithwick, September 26, 2013

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