Homeless Ocala man challenges illegal sentencing for violating city ordinance

Published: Jul. 29, 2019 at 11:13 PM EDT
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Anthony Cummings is homeless and admitted to violating Ocala's open lodging ordinance once in 2012 and twice in 2016.

The ordinance states that a person cannot lodge or take temporary shelter on private or public property without permission.

But he didn't agree with the consequences.

"We've been doing some outreach with the homeless population here in Ocala and as a result of that Mr. Cummings came to us with his legal problem, which was that he wanted to get his driver's license reinstated," said Chelsea Dunn, Southern Legal Counsel attorney.

Cummings was arrested and charged all three times for "open lodging".

At Monday afternoon's hearing, the ACLU took on the challenge to have all fines and court fees reduced and his drivers license reinstated.

"He was assessed a variety of court costs and fees that we did not believe were authorized under state law because they are fees for a misdemeanor or criminal cases and a municipal ordinance violation is not a criminal case, it's a different case even though its heard in the criminal court," said Dunn.

The city of Ocala's counsel argued that because the ordinance uses the word trespass, the city incorporated the misdemeanor for trespassing into the ordinance violation.

"We argued that they did not do that, that that's not actually what happened and so they couldn't assess these costs and so the court agreed with us. The three judges found that they had not adopted by reference the state misdemeanor of trespass," said Dunn.

The court ruled in cummings favor, his fees were reduced and his driver's license will be reinstated. Neither Cummings or the city's counsel was available for comment.