Tell Senate Judiciary to Vote NO on SB 25

As we’ve detailed here and as reported here, Senate Bill 25 is an attempt to keep criminal evictions alive in Arkansas, even though the law authorizing this practice has been declared unconstitutional. You can read the bill for yourself here. SB25 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee; you can voice your opposition by calling or emailing members of that committee. A sample email and contact information follows.

Sample Email:

RE: Please Vote Against Senate Bill 25

Dear Senator ____________,

I am opposed to Senate Bill 25, which amends Arkansas’s failure to vacate statute in two ways by (1) removing the requirement that tenants make payments into a court registry or face greater criminal penalties upon conviction; and (2) adding a provision to allow a criminal court to issue a writ of possession or a “court order to evict the tenant from the leased premises.”

If SB 25 is enacted, Arkansas will remain the only state to criminalize nonpayment of rent.  Our limited law enforcement resources should be used to fight crime, not to enforce civil contracts.  Just as Arkansas does not criminally prosecute individuals who miss a mortgage payment or a car note payment, criminal prosecution is not appropriate for missed rent payments.  This statute effectively subsidizes landlords, who don’t have to hire attorneys to sue to evict. Taxpayers foot the bill for prosecuting attorneys who handle these cases.

Civil contract disputes should be resolved by civil courts.  Arkansas already has a civil eviction law—the unlawful detainer statute—that allows a civil judge to issue a writ of possession.  For cases of nonpayment, a writ of possession can be ordered less than ten days from the date of the missed payment.  In contrast, a failure to vacate case cannot begin until at least eleven days after a missed payment.  Using civil courts for evictions is more efficient because the court can resolve all the issues between the landlord and tenant in one case.

SB 25 does not fix the problems with Arkansas’s eviction laws.  If enacted as written, SB 25 will likely face legal challenges that would leave Arkansas with a patchwork eviction system for another two years.  Three Arkansas judges have said that the existing failure to vacate statute is entirely unconstitutional.  Amending just one part of the statute will not fix this.  Adding a process for eviction to a criminal law may create new problems, because an eviction is not a criminal sanction.

I urge you to oppose this bill.  Thank you for your attention and consideration.

Very truly yours,
____________________

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, Chair, (501) 773-3760, email
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, Vice Chair, (870) 378-1434, email
Sen. Will Bond, (501) 396-5400, email
Sen. Trent Garner, (870) 818-9219, email
Sen. Bryan King, (870) 438-4565, email
Sen. Terry Rice, (479) 637-3100, email
Sen. Greg Standridge, (479) 968-1562, email
Sen. Gary Stubblefield, (479) 635-4314, email