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Criminal Law Keyed to Kennedy
City of Chicago v. Jesus Morales Et Al.
Citation:527 U.S. 41 (1999)
In 1992, the Chicago City Council enacted the Gang Congregation Ordinance, which prohibits “criminal street gang members” from “loitering” with one another or with other persons in any public place. This was a result of the council finding that the criminal street gang activity was largely responsible for the city’s rising murder rate, as well as an escalation of violent and drug related crimes.
The ordinance creates a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $ 500, imprisonment for not more than six months, and a requirement to perform up to 120 hours of community service. Commission of the offense involves four predicates. First, the police officer must reasonably believe that at least one of the two or more persons present in a “public place” is a “criminal street gang member.” Second, the persons must be “loitering,” which the ordinance defines as “remaining in any one place with no apparent purpose.” Third, the officer must then order “all” of the persons to disperse and remove themselves “from the area.” Fourth, a person must disobey the officer’s order. If any person, whether a gang member or not, disobeys the officer’s order, that person is guilty of violating the ordinance.
The trial court ruled that the law failed to notify individuals on what conduct is prohibited and encourages arbitrary and capricious enforcement by police. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed.
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