Miami house painter Alexis Marichal was driving his work truck when police pulled him over, placed him under arrest, and sent him to jail for a night for not having a business sign on the side of the vehicle, says the Miami Herald. In court later, the judge dismissed the charge after Marichal proved he had purchased the sign and was a legitimate painter. With criminal-justice resources being squeezed more every day, the county is studying whether to decriminalize 18 minor infractions like the one that netted Marichal. They include selling flowers by the side of the road, drinking beer near a liquor store, and being in a park “We’re being forced to operate almost like a factory,” Miami-Dade Chief County Judge Samuel Slom said. “We are handling cases that have no business being in a criminal courthouse.”
Since 2005, police in Miami-Dade County have charged 52,560 people with such “quality of life” misdemeanors. Despite low conviction rates, the specter of jail time gives heft to the measures, supporters say. “A civil citation — a guy will just tear it up, it has no teeth,” said Miami Police Chief John Timoney, a former New York City deputy commissioner who touted the “broken windows” philosophy. While police say the ordinances curb criminals before they commit more dangerous crimes, critics say strict enforcement often labels honest, well-meaning citizens as law-breakers.