Another judge says Denver unconstitutionally banned man from parks, but the city will try again

A summer crowd gathers on "Stoner Hill," also known as Overlook Hill, in Commons Park. (Andrew Kenney / Denverite)
A summer crowd gathers on "Stoner Hill," also known as Overlook Hill, in Commons Park. (Andrew Kenney / Denverite)
A summer crowd gathers on “Stoner Hill,” also known as Overlook Hill, in Commons Park. (Andrew Kenney / Denverite)

For the second time, a judge has found that the city of Denver acted unconstitutionally in trying to ban alleged drug users from city parks.

What happened:

Last August, parks director Happy Haynes established a policy that allowed police officers to immediately ban people from parks if the officer suspected the person was illegally using drugs in the park. The suspensions could last up to 90 days and were most often used against alleged marijuana users.

Violating the ban by entering a park or the Cherry Creek Greenway could result in criminal charges, as it did for Troy Holm, a man who was accused of smoking weed in Commons Park.

In February, a county judge dismissed charges against Holm, saying that the policy was unconstitutional because it essentially punished people before they had a chance to argue against their punishment. The city appealed the case, but a district judge on Wednesday similarly found that the city government had unconstitutionally denied the man due process.

What’s next:

The park suspensions policy was temporary and it expired in February. No bans have been issued since then. However, the city is working to resurrect the idea.

“Parks has initiated the process to modify the 2016 Temporary Directive for Drug Related Suspensions in parks and make adjustments to enact some type of permanent rule and regulation that allows suspensions in parks for drug related activity,” parks spokeswoman Cyndi Karvaski wrote in an email to Denverite.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.