Two D.C. Superior Court judges have drafted a proposal that would prohibit persons charged with certain narcotics and prostitution crimes from traveling into alleged high-crime areas of the city, including parts of downtown Washington.
The proposal by Judge Tim Murphy, chief of the criminal division, and Judge David L. Norman would bar affected persons from going into the proscribed areas between noon and 5 p.m. and after 8 p.m. without special permission.
According to the proposal, those subject to the restrictions would be persons on probation for narcotics or prostitution violations, and persons with prior records in such cases who are awaiting trial on new charges. They would be allowed to pass through the areas "in a bus, taxi or car so long as (they) do not stop anywhere (except at traffic signals)."
A number of exceptions would be permitted under the proposal, which outlines steps that the persons must take to obtain permission from the court or from a probation officer.
Persons to whom the restrictions apply would be given a set of guidelines explaining the conditions under which they would be released while awaiting trial. They also would be given maps outlining the forbidden sections of the city.
One map outlines a "prostitution area" that runs roughly from K Street north to S Street and from 13th Street west to either 15th Street or 16th Street.
A second map blocks out a forbidden "drug area," which comprises about 75 city blocks with a much larger section of lower Northwest. The heaviest concentration of these streets is in the heart of Shaw, within a triangular area bounded roughly by 15th Street and Rhode Island and Florida avenues NW.
Norman, currently assigned to arraignment court, where he must determine the conditions of releases for each defendant brought before the court, said yesterday the plan was being worked out by himself, Murphy and representatives of the police department and the U.S. Attorney's office.
No formal proposal has been made to chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I, Norman said.
"Generally speaking, we already put a great deal of restrictions on persons released from court," Norman said yesterday. "We thought it might be a good practice to require some people who have had several arrests on prostitution or drug violations to stay out of areas where we know that kind of activity is concentrated."
Judge Murphy was out of town and could not be reached for comment. He passed word through his secretary that the proposal was only in its planning stages and was not policy.
Ralph Knowles, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national prison project, said the proposed restrictions "pose definite constitutional questions.
"I think the concept is an outrage," Knowles said. "We have a system of justice that punishes people for offenses after offenses have been committed. And in this country we usually do not ban people from their constitutional right of freedom of movement."
Francis Carter, director of the Public Defender Service, which provides attorneys for indigent defendants, said that if such a plan ever were implemented its constitutionality "would be challenged immediately."
The proposed guidelines begin by telling defendants in narcotics or prostitution cases who are freed prior to trial or to probationary statuts that: "While you are on (release) (probation), you may not go into any of the areas marked as "restricted" on the attached map unless you get permission in advance . . . Ask your attorney about any problems or questions you have." i
If the persons must enter the restricted areas for a "true emergency" he must report his reasons to authorities the next day.
"If you will need to go into a restricted area on a regular basis, tell your attorney," the proposed guidelines say. "Your attorney can then ask the court to make an exception and allow you into the area for a limited purpose."
Norman said that the restrictions would not apply to persons arrested in target areas for offenses not related to drugs or prostitution. He said a person who is a resident of a restricted area would not be prevented from going to his home, but might be prohibited from visiting nearby streets.
The judge said such guidelines, if ever put into effect, would not be binding on other judges. "Other judges sitting in arraignment court would still be able to impose their own conditions of release," he said.
The judge said the concept of issuing maps of restricted areas to persons released from the court is similar to a practice formerly followed by judges in Fresno, Calif., who were attempting to blot out prostitution in that city.
However, the appellate court of Fresno overturned the practice a year ago and declared that the restrictions imposed by the lower court were unconstitutional.
Fresno district attorney Dale Blickenstaff said yesterday that the court issued maps to prostitutes for six months beginning in late 1978 and ending early in 1979. The practice was challenged by several prostitutes who banded together to appeal the procedure, Blickenstaff said.
"We believe the practice of keeping the girls out of certain high crime areas worked very well," Blickenstaff said. "But in some instances the practice resulted in scattering prostitutes from a highly concentrated area to other parts of the city where they had never been before."
"I still believe that the concept has merit and could work with some modifications in the District," Judge Norman said. "Whether it would be adopted by other judges or whether it would be reversed by our court of appeals remains to be seen."
U.S. attorney Charles Ruff, who had no comment about the proposal, said representatives of his office will be meeting with the judges to discuss the plan during the next week.
Inspector Fred Thomas, the police department's liaison at Superior Court, said no details of how police will participate in the plan have been worked out.
"From what I understand, a police officer will not have the authority to automatically make an arrest," Thomas said. "All an officer will be able to do is ask a person suspected of violating the conditions of his release for identification."
If the person stopped in a restricted area refused to identify himself, the officer would fill out an "observation report" that would be turned over to U.S. attorneys, Thomas said. The U.S. attorney would then decide whether the person had violated his conditions of release.
Norman, 55, was deputy assistant attorney general, in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, before he became a judge in May 1973.
Murphy, 50, a former U.S. Marine was an assistant U.S. attorney before he was appointed to the bench in November 1966.