I-Team: Are guns allowed in vehicles in parking lots where alcoh - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Are guns allowed in vehicles in parking lots where alcohol is sold?

Police officers remove guns from a car. (Source: Baton Rouge Police Department) Police officers remove guns from a car. (Source: Baton Rouge Police Department)

An obscure Baton Rouge gun law is at the center of a potential showdown in federal court and whether a conflicting Louisiana law trumps the city's law.

Ernest Taylor was pulled over by the Baton Rouge Police Department in north Baton Rouge around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2012. He had just left the parking lot of Boss Lady Lounge on Plank Road without any headlights on. The dash camera video from the officers' police cars from that night showed officers asking Taylor to step out of his car. As he's standing outside, an officer approached his car.

"You got a shotgun on the floor,” the officer said. “You got a weapon between the seat. You got a pistol in there also. You sure there ain't nothing else we don't know about?"

Taylor repeatedly told the officers he had the papers on his weapons. Taylor even told the officers there was another gun in the trunk and he had papers for that one as well.

"You got a shotgun and all this stuff. You know you ain't supposed to have a weapon at a bar," the officers said.

Taylor once again said he had the papers on them.

"It doesn't matter. No matter if you have papers or not, you're not supposed to have a weapon on your vehicle," the officer replied.

According to Baton Rouge City Ordinance 13:95.3, a person is not allowed to have a gun "in any premises where alcoholic beverages are sold and or/consumed." The ordinance includes "the parking lot." It's that law Baton Rouge police officers used on Taylor.

"You were in the parking lot, right?" asked the officer.

"I didn't have the pistol on me. Come on dude. Come on," said Taylor.

"You were in the parking lot with those guns," said the officer.

But a state law passed in 2008 contradicts what the city has on its books. The Louisiana law states, "a person who lawfully possesses a firearm may transport or store such firearm in a locked, privately-owned motor vehicle in any parking lot, parking garage, or other designated parking area."

"My reading of the city ordinance is it's obviously unconstitutional,” said John McLindon, a Baton Rouge lawyer. “The way this is written, if you were hunting and you stopped to get gas at a gas station, you would be violating this law. You would be committing a crime."

McLindon added state law trumps city ordinance.

"The Louisiana Legislature passed a law which more or less trumps this city ordinance, and that's another reason that the city ordinance, in my opinion, is unenforceable. It violates the United States Constitution. It violates the State Constitution, and it violates the Louisiana Revised Statues passed by the Louisiana Legislature. It punishes protected behavior, legal behavior, and if it does that, then it violates federal and state constitutions," McLindon explained.

McLindon said the city ordinance's legal term made it too broad, but because it was a city ordinance, it applies to BRPD.

"Usually, city ordinances are carried out by Baton Rouge City Police. State laws are usually carried out by the sheriff and the Louisiana State Police," McLindon said.

The I-Team asked BRPD about the ordinance and its use of it.

"The officers acted in good faith when this ordinance was enforced and we will continue to use it as long as it is a law on the books," said Sgt. Mary Ann Godawa with BRPD.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council is working to change things. Nearly two weeks ago, the parish attorney's office asked the council members to consider deleting the current ordinance, saying certain provisions are unconstitutional.

"We have a case pending, a false arrest because the arrest was made under the earlier ordinance that we want to repeal," said Assistant Parish Attorney Frank Gremillion.

"If you have a lawful firearm in your car and you pull up to the Winn-Dixie and they sell alcohol, you are under violation under this," said Parish Attorney Mary Roper.

Taylor was arrested for headlights required, resisting an officer, fugitive from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and possession of a firearm where alcohol is sold. As for his three confiscated guns, Taylor got them back two weeks ago.

Louisiana State Police said it only enforces state laws. EBRSO said it enforces state and parish laws, but could not recall the last time it used the charge for possession of a firearm where alcohol is sold.

Because the Metro Council deferred the issue on June 25, it will take up the matter at its next meeting on July 23.

Meanwhile, Taylor and his attorneys are taking the case to federal court and that hearing was rescheduled from July 8 to July 30.

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