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9th Circuit Says Cities Can’t Prosecute People For Sleeping On Streets



The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a district court decision in favor of the City of Boise, Idaho ruling that cities could not arrest and prosecute homeless individuals for sleeping on the streets when they lack access to shelters or alternative housing.

The ruling could have major implications for local governments across the United States and in California in particular.

The case dates back to 2009, going before the appeals court last year. The plaintiffs, formerly homeless Boise, Idaho residents, alleged that laws prohibiting them from sleeping outdoors within city limits amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated their rights under the Eighth Amendment.

The appeals court opinion from Judge Marsha S. Berzon reads, in part:

Turning to the merits, the panel held that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment precluded the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter.

The panel held that, 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.

Orange County will be eyeing the decision closely, where many cities are battling the region’s homeless population.

The ruling makes the job easier for the judge in the OC case, David Carter.  It is more likely Carter will issue an injunction that bars enforcement of anti-camping ordinances throughout the county.