In Colombia, a document known as the “Codigo Policia” created standards to help local law enforcement better interpret the law and serve the public.
Unfortunately, in many areas the police pick and choose sections of the code to enforce in favor. Loud music is mostly overlooked, but the consumption of drugs and alcohol in public places has been attacked with a zeal that would make any dedicated church-goer look like a sinner.
This saw the legality of the code challenged in Colombia’s highest court; the Constitutional Court. In a recent ruling the section of the code prohibiting the consumption of drugs and liquor in public, it was determined to be a violation of citizen rights.
Tip: It is highly recommend that expat residents keep a copy of the Police Code in Colombia on hand!
Constitutional Court Overturns Ruling About Police Code in Colombia
Of course, the person reading this is probably scratching their heads wondering what is wrong with keeping drugs and alcohol out of public places. And, it was more the implications of it than the actual gesture. Let’s take a look at the code, then the more far-reaching effects. Finally, we can begin to explain why the constitutional court decision was important.
Police Code for Drug and Alcohol Consumption
Under “ley 1801 Codigo Nacional de Policia y Conviviencia,” or Police Code – in article 33, it deals with acts that negatively affect the tranquility and respectful relations of the people. The specifics in section 2, basically state that the citizenry should respect public places like hospitals, cemeteries etc, people should avoid sex acts or exhibitionism, and they should not consume alcohol or drugs in a public place, smoke in public or obstruct people who are protesting.
In article 140, it deals with acts against the care and integrity of public spaces. This section deals with respecting the cleaning and sanitation of public spaces, remodel or change public spaces without proper permission, damage fire hydrants or stop lights, occupy public spaces beyond social norms etc. In section 7, it states that the people should not consume alcoholic or psychoactive substances in public spaces including leaning against a tree, leaning against a wall, storefronts, gardens etc.
Implications of Enforcement and Constitutional Court Ruling
Beyond drugs and alcohol, these two articles deal with norms which affect free expression, freedom of speech and decisions made about your own body, in public spaces. This means that if you want to smoke pot, or have wild monkey sex, the police cannot obstruct your choices. Of course, if it directly affects another person – you will find yourself in trouble. Use caution.
The Constitutional Court ruling stated that the citizenry are free to choose what to do with their bodies, in public spaces. It comes down to respecting individual choice. The Duque administration has stated that they will continue to try to keep kids in schools and the parks clean.
While keeping the streets orderly and clean – we also have to protect basic rights. If you are a medical marijuana patient, enjoy having a beer on your balcony. Enjoy a street festival, but recognize that there are fine lines between personal rights and public disturbance. We are not in any way advocating public disorder or disturbance.
There have been extreme situations where the police have overstepped their boundaries. It is necessary to understand our rights and be able to defend them. Considering every justified reason that the police code was written to cover, there is still a tremendous lack of education in the proper enforcement and legal interpretations.
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