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Sep 22 2014

WA City Implements Body Odor Ban

body odor ban stinks

A new trespassing law in the city of Burien, WA makes it illegal to stink. Specifically, the law implements a body odor ban in public places including parks, libraries, and city hall. Showing up to any of these places with an offensive odor could end with you being removed from the premises and banned for a year.

The ordinance was passed in August and went into affect August 23. The document lists “bodily hygiene or scent that is unreasonably offensive to others” under “Behavior that is ‘unreasonably disruptive to other users.'” The document is careful to mention that disruptive behavior is not constitutionally protected. The ordinance also goes beyond a simple “body odor ban” to place “hostile or aggressive language or gestures,” cell phone or other electronics use, boisterous behavior, and inappropriate clothing in the “disruptive” category of illegal behavior. Also included is inappropriate use of public areas, such as skateboarding in parks or using public facilities to bathe, shave, or wash clothing.

Even better, one does not need to be arrested or even notified in person to be banned from public areas.

Local citizens are on the fence, with many pointing out that this law is an attempt to regulate the poor and homeless in the area. Others have requested that the ordinance also be extended to public transportation.

Punishment for smelliness is broken down depending on how many prior offenses someone has. A first offense results in a seven day ban. But if they’ve been issued any prior trespass warnings – regardless of the reason – punishment skips ahead to 90 days for a second offense, and a year for three or more. Failure to comply with one’s punishment results in arrest and a misdemeanor charge. In WA state, misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. Gross misdemeanors carry a jail sentence of a year and a $5000 fine.

Only one council member voted against the bill, stating the ban – and all associated behaviors – would disproportionately discriminate against the poor, homeless, and teenagers. While the homeless can now be kicked off of public property for poor hygiene, they can also be kicked off for attempting to wash up in the bathrooms. The parks and libraries are also meeting spots for the local teenagers, who can sometimes get rowdy because, well, they’re teenagers.

The ACLU has labeled the body odor ban as unconstitutional and is currently fighting against it. The city of Burien responded by stating that public spaces have always had rules regarding personal hygiene and behavior: “Similar policies have been in effect at other public agencies for decades, including every King County Library branch and every Metro bus.” However, these rules were either not enforced or went unwritten. Burien maintains the the ordinance is necessary for the safety of its citizens.

Criticisms on the ban also being a violation of the First Amendment – namely due to the section on foul language – have largely been ignored or gone unvoiced.

3 comments

  1. Mark

    Does this mean muslims are going to have to start bathing?

  2. jgm

    This is not correct. It is not illegal to “stink” but someone with extreme and outrageous order can be told to leave the area and the people ARE not arrested for that. I wrote the story that has been totally taken out of context.

    1. LibertyDoll

      I’m not sure what you’re saying was taken out of context? I specifically wrote that the order allows people to be banned from public places for 7-365 days depending on how many offenses one has had, and the arrest comes if the person ignores their own personal ban. “Punishment for smelliness is broken down depending on how many prior offenses someone has. A first offense results in a seven day ban. But if they’ve been issued any prior trespass warnings – regardless of the reason – punishment skips ahead to 90 days for a second offense, and a year for three or more. Failure to comply with one’s punishment results in arrest and a misdemeanor charge. ” I checked my sources in the above article and did not use your website and got most of my information from the ordinance itself.

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