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Woodruff Circuit Judge Richard Proctor has ruled from the bench in a case in Augusta that the state's criminal eviction law is unconstitutional. He'll be preparing an order to that effect.
The case was typical. The defendant allegedly failed to pay rent, was served a 10-day notice to vacate and did not. He was charged under the criminal eviction statute, convicted in district court of a misdemeanor and sentenced to a fine of $4,175 and $3,448 in restitution and a 30-day jail sentence, suspended on the ground that he vacate the property. He appealed to circuit court.
Pulaski Circuit Judge Herb Wrightruled similarly in January. There are a host of issues with the speedy criminal eviction procedure — lack of due process, cruel and unusual punishment and the prohibition against debtor's prison.
Some unscrupulous landlords love it, though. Efforts to amend the state's landlord tenant law with a long-discussed mild revision acceptable to many legitimate landlords failed in the recent legislative session. It was not a good session to be poor in Arkansas.
Happily, for now, the courts provide some relief from unconstitutional practices supported by the legislature.
As memorialized in the video above, Arkansas has been widely touted as having the worst landlord-tenant laws in the country.