Rep. Pat Moore has pre-filed a bill that will repeal the last of the state’s “slave” laws, the crime of vagrancy.
Moore filed HB 137 which seeks to entirely repeal the law.
The vagrancy law in Louisiana was passed after slavery to create easy ways to convict former slaves of a crime. The 13th amendment allows, even today, any person who is convicted of a crime to made a slave.
The vagrancy laws make it a crime to be a habitual drunk either in public or private. It also makes it a crime to associate with a prostitute or live in the same house with a known prostitute.
The vagrancy law makes it a crime to beg for money except for charity.
Habitual gamblers or people who gamble for a living are considered vagrants.
The law also makes it a crime to be unemployed and then not accept a job offered to them.
Those who walk the streets late at night or stand around any public place of assembly without lawful business also commit a crime.
The law makes it a crime to be a prostitue. It also makes it a crime to be found near any building, structure, vehicle or any grounds whether public or private without being able to account for themselves.
Moore said the law does not punish actions but lifestyles. She said a habitual drunkard who breaks no laws such as disturbing the peace or DWI should not be called a criminal. She said it should not be a crime to know and associate with a prostitute or live in the same home as a prostitute.
The vagrancy law was part of a package of laws in Southern States called “Black Codes” aimed at forcing newly freed slaves to commit crimes so they could be returned to slavery.
Only a handful of states still have vagrancy laws since the Supreme Court struck down arbitary vagrancy laws as too broad and vague.
Moore’s law seeks to repeal the entire law.
The state recently amended the constitution to replace a slave law that allowed juries to convict suspects without a unanimous jury. The law was intended to make it easy to convict former slaves who refused to work for their former masters.
The vagrancy law is the last of Louisiana’s “Black Codes” still on the books and being enforced in many areas of the state.