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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Street Rules

posted by on October 18 at 9:33 AM

The 9th Circuit dropped its 2006 decision prohibiting the city of Los Angeles from arresting homeless people for sleeping on the street. (They had ruled in 2006 that arresting the homeless for sleeping on the street violated the 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.)

The new ruling doesn’t overturn the 2006 ruling, it simply vacates it because the parties agreed to a settlement contingent on the 9th Circuit withdrawal.

I guess it’s good news that the ruling wasn’t officially iced, but it’s bad news that the bold precedent no longer stands.

From the initial ruling:

We hold only that, just as the Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of criminal punishment on an individual for being a drug addict, Robinson, 370 U.S. at 667; or for invol- untary public drunkenness that is an unavoidable consequence of being a chronic alcoholic without a home, Powell, 392 U.S. at 551 (White, J., concurring in the judgment); id. at 568 n.31 (Fortas, J., dissenting); the Eighth Amendment prohibits the City from punishing involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles.

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Sounds good to me since sleeping in the street is dangerous for everyone including drivers. They should sleep in the door entrances, on sidewalks and against buildings instead.

Posted by Touring | October 18, 2007 9:58 AM

I never know which way to go on stuff like this. Jailing drunks is actually not such a bad deal for the drunks, except that they can't drink in jail. And it would at least provide a budget number that could be compared to the cost of providing shelter -- legislators could argue the case for creating shelters and treatment facilities by comparing it to the cost of maintaining drunks in jail rather than having to rely on the intangibles of human suffering that prevail when you just leave people on the streets.

Posted by Judah | October 18, 2007 10:16 AM

Interesting interpretation of the Eight Amendment. I always assumed it applied to the punishment for crimes, not to the supposed unfairness of certain activities being crimes. How does this apply to street sweeps where the homeless are herded into shelters?

Posted by keshmeshi | October 18, 2007 10:49 AM

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