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City To Strike Rule About Being Willfully Annoying, Attorney Claims It’s ‘Unconstitutional’

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GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) - It’s soon expected to be OK to be willfully annoying in Grand Rapids.

The City Commission is nixing a 38-year-old section of city code that states “no person shall willfully annoy another person,” according to city attorney Catherine Mish, who recommended repealing the language.

“Reasonable people could disagree as to what ‘annoying’ means,” Mish told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill. “It’s very subjective in the eye of the beholder.”

Mish said the code is “unconstitutional in terms of being vague” and “simply unenforceable.” A final decision is expected March 11.

“I’ve seen the language in other city codes as well, so I think it was actually fairly common language. It might have been an attempt to prevent things like might qualify now as stalking. But, the state law regarding stalking is so much more useful and contains greater penalties, so that’s a much more useful tool.”

Even with the change, related crimes such as obstructing someone in a public place or assault would still be on the books.

Mish has been scouring city code to find archaic rules since August. Last year, rules that got a second look included one prohibiting people from riding horses on a sidewalk and another allowing jail time for failing to return a library book.

“We have some longstanding codes that have been on the books for a long time that really haven’t been evaluated for 40 years. So, we’re going through a large-scale cleanup effort to go through the city code and pull out what’s no longer necessary,” she said. “I think it’s an invitation to selective enforcement, that antiquated things can be used against individuals when they’re not widely used against everyone.”

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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