Thursday, May 7, 2009

Saggy Pants Bill 'Arguably Unconstitutional,' AG's Office Says

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2009 at 9:27 AM

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The state Attorney General's office issued an opinion today questioning the constitutionality of the "saggy pants bill." From the just-released opinion:
"The proposed legislation is arguably unconstitutionally vague, because it does not set forth a standard for its violation that may be readily understood. If passed, the legislation could also be vulnerable to constitutional attack on substantive due process grounds, because it arguably interferes with a liberty interest to dress as one chooses. Additionally, the proposed statute could be challenged as violating the protections of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause, although the likelihood of success of such challenges is unclear."
The AG's office points out that several cities in other states have enacted similar bills, but Tennessee would become the first state to do it, and there's "no controlling authority" on this issue. But for starters, the opinion goes on, it seems a little unfair to expect anyone to understand what exactly the bill means when it outlaws wearing pants below the waistline. Where is that?
* The natural indentation of the body at the waist; or * The part of a garment that covers the narrowest part of the waist; or * The part above or below it as the current fashion demands.
"The variety of definitions and common understanding of the term 'waistline' would make it difficult for a person of 'reasonable intelligence' to understand precisely the conduct prohibited and would potentially make enforcement arbitrary," the AG says. The opinion wonders whether a woman would break the law by merely raising her arms and showing her underwear or whether a guy showing his underwear waistband would be in violation. The potential problems faced by plumbers were omitted from the opinion, leaving them uncertain as to their legal status under this bill.

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