July 24, 2007 -- Wearing low pants carries a high risk of fines and even jail time in several Louisiana parishes where new ordinances call for police to crack down on wardrobe violations in city streets.
Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph has signed an ordinance, approved 5-4 last Wednesday by the Parish Council, that makes it illegal for anyone to reveal underwear or to dress in a way that is "not becoming to his or her sex."
"Our kids kind of got away from us," said Lafourche Council member Lindel Toups, who proposed the ordinance. "And they need to start showing respect to their elders."
Violators could be fined $50 to $100 for the first two offenses, and $100 plus 16 hours of community service after revealing buttocks, underwear or even bra straps a third time.
This Cajun town is the second of several Louisiana jurisdictions to propose penalties for dress-code violations, which city officials call indecent exposure and a danger to the community. Pointe Coupee Parish votes on a saggy pants ban of its own Tuesday, proposing $500 fines and even jail time for violators.
But because of a lack of specific enforcement guidelines and the ban's potential conflict with the Constitution, there's no need to invest in a belt just yet.
Lafourche Council member Lindel Toups, who proposed the ordinance, acknowledges that the ban could be unconstitutional and is drafting an amendment that will specify the dress-code terms, namely that underwear can't be showing in public places, with exceptions like the beach.
Statewide Concern Over Droopy Drawers
Lafourche's ban arrives less than a month after Mayor Carol Broussard signed Decalmbres' own saggy britches ordinance into effect, which set up heftier penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for full or partial nudity, "dress not becoming to his or her sex," and exposure of undergarments.
Pointe Coupee Parish will hold a public hearing Tuesday to vote on a similar proposal banning "indecent exposure."
"The people want their community back," said Russell Young, a Pointe Coupee police juror, who added that he hopes to see a statewide ban in the near future.
"No one wants to see your dirty underwear," Young said, saying that the prevalent saggy pants problem presents a nuisance and a safety hazard to the community.
Two people have almost been hit by cars because of saggy pants, according to the police juror. He said he saw one young man almost get side-swiped by an oncoming car when his sagging jeans got caught in a bicycle spoke and he lost control of his steering. Another man nearly caused a collision after he had to stop in the middle of his streets to yank up his baggy pants that just had dropped to his ankles, he recounted.
Young said he believes that police enforcement is necessary to deal with the problem, because "parents are ignorant about the issue and just aren't around enough" to correct their kids.
How Low Can You Go?
So, how low is too low? You could get a ticket if undergarments are showing, city officials said.
Lafourche Council member Toups also suggested a test that would require a person's pants or shorts to stay up if he or she lifted up his or her arms.
Despite concern that enforcement could result in racial profiling, supporters of the ban insisted that the dress code would be applied uniformly.
Toups argued that this isn't a black and white issue but said he sees the ban as opportunity to put parents and grandparent back in charge.
"If you are Canadian, Serbian, or Afghan and your pants are hanging low, it doesn't matter what color you are. We will ticket or arrest you," Young of Pointe Coupee said.
In addition to sheriff enforcement, he said he hoped that Louisiana legislators would send state police into the town of 25,000 for about a month to monitor the situation and send a message to the community that the council means business.