9th Circuit: Cities Can’t Prosecute Homeless for Sleeping Outdoors
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a district court decision in favor of the City of Boise, Idaho that could have major implications for local governments across the United States and in California in particular.
On Tuesday, the court ruled 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 came in response to two Boise ordinances that sought to prohibit sleeping on public property.
Tuesday’s ruling is consistent with another 9th Circuit decision from 2006 which forced Los Angeles to stop enforcing its ban on overnight camping.
“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors,” the Court reiterated, “the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”
The decision is being eyed especially closely in Orange County, where cities are embroiled in legal controversy surrounding the region’s homeless population. Tuesday’s ruling makes it more likely that the judge in that case, David Carter, will issue an injunction barring enforcement of anti-camping ordinances throughout the county.
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