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Laws Punishing Homeless People for Sleeping in Public Are Cruel and Unusual, Fed Court Rules

[ – 9/5/18]

Prosecuting homeless people for sleeping on the streets when there is no shelter available is a form of cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Constitution, a federal appeals court said this week.

The case stems from two ordinances in Boise, Idaho, that make it a crime to sleep or camp in buildings, streets and other public places. Six homeless people who had been convicted under the laws sued the city in 2009, saying their constitutional rights had been violated.

After years of legal wrangling, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said in a 32-page opinion on Tuesday that Boise’s ordinances “criminalize the simple act of sleeping outside on public property, whether bare or with a blanket or other basic bedding.” The panel added that “a municipality cannot criminalize such behavior consistently with the Eighth Amendment when no sleeping space is practically available in any shelter.”

In their summary of the opinion, the judges wrote, “As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

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  1. guy in CA

    does they mean unless it applies to RSO?

  2. Anonymous

    Omg Mr. Book, you’re going to loose!!! Oh wait, you’re very connected and powerful.

    • guy in CA

      United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I think does not apply to mr Book. he is in Fla. This is way out west.

      • Ted

        But I would think it can be used as a persuasive example in the Miami Dade case against Mr. Book.

  3. Paul

    Good news for sure

  4. Bobby

    That’s good news, also last I knew ordinances, are NOT BINDING PUBLIC LAWS, and certainly do not apply to the general public. Ordinances Only apply to the city/corporation and their employees and employers. Again NOT the general public.

    • CR

      Ordinances of a governing body apply to everyone within the jurisdiction of the governing body.

      Why do you believe otherwise?

  5. Eric

    One day I will click on this board and see that the court has ruled the registration is additional punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

  6. AnonMom

    But the laws that promote homelessness, such as keeping former felons from obtaining professional licensing, and RSO restrictions, are not. That makes a lot of sense…

  7. just wondering

    Okay so if a person rent/own a home too close to a school. There is no other place for the RSO to live because just about the whole city is off limited to RSO. I think this would apply as well to people living too close to school.

  8. kat

    Knoxville,TN has a large homeless population that makes their home beneath the interstate overpass.
    The city has decided to turn this into a “DAY PARK”, a designated low-barrier space where the homeless can access basic amenities, bathrooms, electricity, water, picnic tables, etc, during the day but not at night.

    It will be interesting to see if homeless registrants are prohibited from using this areas as it is now called a “Day Park” and most parks are off limits to registrants.

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