HOUSTON — Ever gotten a ticket for sitting and putting your stuff down on a sidewalk? One Houston couple has lawyered up and is pleading 'not guilty' after the city of Houston issued them four tickets— totaling $1,000 in fines— for doing just that.
"They profile the people and if they appear to be homeless, that's who gets the tickets. That violates the constitution, that violates equal protection under the constitution, and that is cruel and unusual punishment," civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen said.
"The Department of Justice had said that anti-sitting laws violate the 8th Amendment to the Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment."
Curtis Owens and Misty Howard have been homeless for the last five years.
Howard, who is seven months pregnant, said back in October, the two just wanted to take a break on a corner in Downtown when an officer approached them.
"We were just sitting against the building on Fannin and Prarie Street just resting because you know, I have two more months to go and with him having back problems, we sat down for a few seconds and the officer gave us a citation," Howard said.
If these newlyweds don't pay up, they could end up in jail.
"Honestly, I think they should just throw it out because I mean, it was something so small and pointless for him to stop and actually give us that citation," Owens said.
Homeless advocate Shere Dore said the city needs to stop targeting the homeless with laws that violate their constitutional rights.
"They can't have a tent. They can't sit on a sidewalk. They can't sleep on a sidewalk so where are they supposed to go? We can't feed them so it's come down to basic human rights," Dore said.
At an arraignment in court Monday, Kallinen said the couple plead not guilty and hopes the case will go to a jury trial.
The city of Houston has not responded to any specifics about a possible lawsuit, but said they are looking into the citations with Houston police.