Ninth Circuit Says No to Criminalizing Homeless
The bulletin explains,
On a September 4, 2018 ruling (Martin v. City of Boise, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25032), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Boise, ID ordinance violated the Eighth Amendment to the extent that it imposed criminal sanctions against homeless persons for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when they had no alternative shelter access available.
The Ninth Circuit essentially ruled that criminalizing the status of being “homeless,” or criminalizing the “unavoidable consequences” of that status—such as sitting, lying or sleeping on sidewalks and other public grounds—may constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Not just in Eureka, but everywhere, government will have to change how it approaches the societal problems caused by the tide of people who have no home.
Judicious analysis of the Martin v. Boise ruling will likely lead to amendment of the Eureka Municipal Code. Until then, continued prosecution of the City’s public camping-related and sit-lie ordinances could lead to liability for the City of Eureka. If it stands, this case could have a significant impact on municipalities with substantial homeless populations and inadequate or insufficient homeless shelter facilities. As a result, following the Martin ruling Eureka Police officers are provisionally no longer citing individuals for sleeping in public spaces under EMC 93.02 (camping prohibited) and EMC 93.03 (unlawful habitation in autos/trailers). This limited suspension of enforcement may continue until such time as the City’s ordinances and policies have been ensured to comply with this court decision.
The bulletin explains what the City will do next. Plans include supporting shelter options, developing a ‘shelter finder app,’ and continuing plans for programs such as Betty Chin’s Blue Angel Village.
Among more than a dozen bulleted points outlining Eureka’s plans are these two very important items about limits and expectations:
- EPD will continue to clean-up illegal camps. Nobody has the right to litter in public, destroy property, trespass, create a public health or safety hazard, obstruct the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, or interfere with rights of others to use public areas for their intended purposes. There is a distinction between the act of sleeping and setting up or remaining at a “campsite” on public property (or public right-of- way) for purposes of dwelling in that particular place.
- Boise does not apply to enforcement on private property or to particular times and locations where access to public property is restricted.
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