WASHINGTON – The ACLU of the District of Columbia applauds the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety of the D.C. Council for advancing Bill 22-408, the Fare Evasion Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2017, out of committee.

The bill, introduced by Councilmembers Trayon White, Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White in July of 2017, would make evading fare on WMATA buses and trains a civil offense punishable by a fine. Currently, fare evasion is a crime that can result in arrest, jail time, and/or a fine of up to $300.

The Committee Print of the bill also reduced to civil infractions other minor offenses on public transit that are currently categorized as crimes, including eating and drinking, playing a radio, and operating roller skates, among others. Under Bill 22-408, the penalty for these offenses, including fare evasion, would be a fine of up to $50, which is consistent with WMATA’s current practice when it issues citations.

The following can be attributed to Nassim Moshiree, Policy Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia:

“Today’s action by the Judiciary Committee marks an important recognition that low-level offenses like fare evasion do not pose a threat to public safety -- and criminalizing such offenses in fact makes communities less safe and erodes trust in law enforcement.  

recent report by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights and Urban Affairs found that fare evasion in DC is enforced almost exclusively against black riders. While this bill does not fully address the racial and economic disparities in metro fare enforcement, it is an important step in reducing one avenue by which mostly black DC residents are being criminalized.  Arrests for fare evasion can have serious and lasting consequences – resulting in deportation proceedings for immigrant communities, revocation of parole for people reentering society, and a gateway into the criminal justice system for young people.

By advancing the Fare Evasion Decriminalization bill out of the Judiciary Committee today, the Council is recognizing that no one should have to face arrest, jail time, or be saddled with a criminal record for failure to pay a $2 fare.

Thank you to the Judiciary Committee and to Chairman Charles Allen for leading this important bill one step closer to a final vote. We look forward to working with all councilmembers and members of the community to make D.C. more equitable and livable for all.