One evening in 1983, Sabrina Fields and a friend were walking in downtown Omaha. This shouldn’t be a crime. But an Omaha police officer decided that their behavior violated Omaha’s loitering and prowling ordinance. Thankfully, Sabrina knew her rights and fought her ticket in court.
With the ACLU’s help, this case made it to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals with a decision that came down in 1987.
The court ruled that “walking in the middle of a street, even at night, is not a crime, nor does it lead a reasonable person to conclude that criminal behavior will soon occur.”
While a victory for Sabrina, practices by law enforcement departments around the country have essentially made walking a crime, particularly in Black neighborhoods.
“Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them,” said former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder when looking at the situation in Ferguson.
A court also responded favorably to an ACLU lawsuit about Stop and Frisk practices in New York City. 88% of the people searched by law enforcement under stop and frisk were innocent.
2016 is the 50th anniversary of the ACLU of Nebraska. We will feature several memories from our five decades of defending freedom in the Cornhusker state here. Do you have a favorite memory? Share it with us!