South Carolina legislators have introduced a bill, House Bill 4957, that would impose a fine for wearing pants that sag more than three inches below the top of the hip.
A first offense carries a fine of $25, a second offense carries a fine of $50 or three hours of community service, while a third and subsequent offense carries a fine of $75 or six hours of community service.
Officials say the measure isn’t intended to single out any particular demographic, and that they consider it a rule to help preserve public decency.
Violations wouldn’t be considered criminal or delinquent, or put state college or university financial assistance at risk.
“It’s unbecoming, it’s unprofessional,’ said Rep. Joe Jefferson, a Democrat from Berkeley County who’s one of the bill’s sponsors. “Now there’s some misunderstanding. I understand that some people are assuming that if one is caught, then they won’t be allowed to go to college, grants, loans, all these other opportunities will be taken away. That’s not the case at all. This is just to prevent these fellas and giving them at least an obligation to realize that they’re walking around and they’re convincing others to follow them. That’s not what it’s all about.”
Jefferson said the bill is not designed to target minorities.
“it’s no more than a warning to allow these fellas to be more responsible,” says Jefferson. “It is not just targeting African-American men. I see men of all races walking around with this same problem. It is just disingenuous, we should not have this. There ought to be a better way.”
Three Midlands lawmakers co-sponsored the bill: Jimmy Bales (D-Richland), Richard Martin (R-Newberry) and Russell Ott (D-Calhoun).
Other co-sponsors include Robert Brown (D-Charleston), Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston), Linda Bennett (R-Charleston County), Carl Anderson (D-Georgetown), Steven Wayne Long (R-Spartanburg) and Robert Williams (D-Georgetown).
The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.
A similar ordinance was passed in Timmonsville in July 2016, where third-time offenders could pay a $100-600 fine.
Lawmakers hope to improve the appearance of the community in addressing this dressing that developed a fashion style from gang activities.
The fashion’s association and those who typically sport this style are commonly either into gang activities themselves, or sometimes just empathetic thereto, and is likely the reason why Rep. Jefferson needed to put distance between any form of discrimination and the reasons that the bill treats of this matter.