3:59 PM: Seattle Police published this statement this afternoon:
Late yesterday afternoon, SPD received an order from a US District Court judge that enjoined, in full, enforcement of SMC 12A.080.020 – the City’s misdemeanor property destruction law. This means that until further order of the Court, SPD cannot take action on damage to property under this law. This is not a matter within SPD or City discretion; we are bound by the court order as it is written.
We understand and share the concerns that are being relayed to us by our community, businesses and residents alike. We know, as evidenced by the thousands of calls for service we receive each year reporting acts of vandalism and other forms of property damage that property damage is, in fact, a crime that is of significance to community members. SPD is working closely with the Mayor’s Office and City Attorney’s Office to assess next steps with the Court.
We hadn’t heard about this case before. It challenges graffiti-vandalism arrests under a city law that specifically targets graffiti vandalism, but does NOT mention other forms of “property destruction::
A.A person is guilty of property destruction if he or she:
1.Intentionally damages the property of another; or
2.Writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person.
The order by federal Judge Marsha Pechman is a preliminary injunction – meaning it could be temporary. Here it is, as linked in a news release from City Attorney Ann Davison‘s office. In the ruling, Judge Pechman writes in part that the law:
“… targets speech (and) poses a real and substantial threat of censorship. … On its face, the Ordinance sweeps so broadly that it criminalizes innocuous drawings (from a child’s drawing of a mermaid to pro-police messages written by the Seattle Police Foundation … The Court agrees with Defendants that the public benefits from preventing property damage and visual blight. But the criminalization of free speech significantly harms the public interest in far greater measure than the public might benefit from criminalizing property damage.”
Meantime, the City Attorney’s Office said that today it would ‘file a motion asking Judge Pechman for expedited reconsideration of the order. The Criminal Division of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office will not be filing property destruction charges under this law for the time being.”
6:34 PM: The City Attorney’s Office has since sent this statement clarifying that the injunction only sought to target graffiti vandalism, not other kinds of property damage:
At the direction of the Court, counsel for the City and the plaintiffs conferred this afternoon to determine whether they agreed that the Preliminary Injunction should enjoin enforcement of both SMC 12A.08.020(A)(1) and (A)(2) or just SMC 12A.03.020(A)(2). After conferring, the parties submitted a stipulated notice to the Court stating their agreement that the Preliminary Injunction enjoins only SMC 12A.08.020(A)(2). We anticipate the Court will issue an order confirming the stipulation and narrowed scope of the Preliminary Injunction Order. The effect of this change is significant because it permits the City to continue enforcing violations involving property damage, a gross misdemeanor, under SMC 12.08.020(A)(1). Subsection (A)(2) of the ordinance remains enjoined, pending further order of the Court.
The aforementioned “stipulated notice” can be read here.