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The Right to Wear Saggy Pants

Did the Framers foresee exposed boxers? A Florida judge seems to think so, ruling this week that a Riviera Beach, Fla., law against saggy pants is unconstitutional. The law, approved by Riviera Beach voters last March, makes it a misdemeanor to wear pants that show skin or underwear. Violators face fines of up to $150 or community service. News reports provide few details of the basis for the judge's ruling, except that he confined his decision to "the limited facts of this case."

Police charged 17-year-old Julius Hart with violating the law after they spotted him riding his bicycle with 4 to 5 inches of his boxer shorts showing above the waist of his pants. Complicating the matter for Hart was that he was on probation for a marijuana possession charge. That made his exposed boxers a violation of his probation and landed him a night in jail. When he appeared the next day before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Paul Moyle, public defender Carol Bickerstaff argued that the saggy-pants law is unconstitutional, urging the judge, "Your honor, we now have the fashion police."

Had police spotted Hart's buttocks instead of his boxers, the case might have turned out differently. "We're not talking about exposure of buttocks," the judge said from the bench. "No. We're talking about someone who has on pants whose underwear are apparently visible to a police officer who then makes an arrest, and the basis is he's then held overnight." This is not the end for Hart; the charge remains pending against him and he will be back before the judge on Oct. 5. Nor is it the end of saggy-pants patrols in Riviera Beach. The city's major, Thomas Masters, vows to continue to enforce the law. "It's still a law," he said. "It has not been thrown out or invalidated, and all valid laws will be enforced." That is unwelcome news for Riviera Beach teenagers, not to mention the city's plumbers.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 18, 2008 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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