From the city that prides itself on compassion for others…
(TheBlaze) Police charged a homeless woman with a misdemeanor for using a private electrical outlet to charge her cellphone, even though the mobile device mostly as a means for personal safety.
Police in Portland, Oregon, charged “Jackie” in July with third degree theft of services. “Jackie,” who did not want to disclose her real name, was with a homeless man also charging his cellphone when they were confronted by officers, Street Roots reported.
Jackie had never been charged with a crime before, and feared that having a criminal record might affect her chances at getting a job or even being approved for affordable housing, for which she is currently on several waiting lists.
Beyond a job or even a house, however, was the message a possible conviction could send to potential landlords or employers. They might think Jackie had been convicted of shoplifting, for example, when in reality she’s never been convicted of such a thing.
And while it might seem odd for a homeless woman to own a cellphone, Jackie said she carries it for her safety. She chooses to sleep near a police station, which is also in close proximity to homeless resource centers, but she still acknowledges, “Men approach me, stuff happens.”
That’s not to mention the legal costs associated with Jackie’s case, despite the fact that the Electrical Research Institute says it only costs about 25 cents per year to keep the average cellphone charged. According to Street Roots, that means the cost of electricity Jackie used when police confronted her was “mere fractions of a penny.”
“It’s just my sense of right and wrong, and it just feels so damn wrong. The amount of time and money and wasted resources with the judge, the lawyers, the clerks, the police and on and on, “Jackie said. And she apparently isn’t the only one who feels that way.
“It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s just insane,” Public Defender Jane Fox said.
“The [case] that I had was somebody charging their phone by the Greyhound bus station. Don’t you have a reasonable expectation that an outlet near the bus station would be OK?” Fox quipped.
In the end, Jackie’s case ended up going to a community court instead of a circuit court, in an effort to cut down on some of the legal and clerical costs associated with the case. But that would have required Jackie to plead guilty and complete a certain number of hours of community service, something she said from the beginning could have a negative bearing on her chances to land a job or housing she can afford.
On the other hand, the deal the community court offered her was much more appealing than the compromise a circuit court might be willing to make, which Stacy Du Clos, Jackie’s attorney, said could range anywhere from one year of probation to 20 hours of community service to a $100 fine. In addition to any of those penalties, Jackie would be required to pay at least $50 for “Theft Talk” class.
Taking her chances in circuit court, Jackie pleaded “not guilty.”
It turns out Jackie made a wise choice. Just one day before her case was scheduled to go to trial, the district attorney dropped the charges.
“It was very reasonable of him to do that,” Du Clos told Street Roots. “I’m not sure that every DA would have dropped the charges.”
But the homeless man Jackie was with that day still has challenges ahead of him. His case is still pending because he didn’t make his initial appearance in court.
The Portland Police Department did not immediately respond to TheBlaze when asked to comment.
—Courtesy of TheBlaze