(Los Angeles, CA) The policy of the city of Los Angeles to arrest homeless people for lying, sitting, or sleeping on public sidewalks violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and punishment, according to a federal appeals court.
The suit brought by the ACLU challenged the city's practice of arresting persons for violating a municipal ordinance that states that "no person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or public way."
A federal judge originally dismissed the case after finding the ordinance penalized conduct, not a person's homeless status. Today's ruling reverses that decision.
“We hold only that, just as the Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of criminal punishment on an individual for being a drug addict, or for involuntary public drunkenness that is an unavoidable consequence of being a chronic alcoholic without a home, 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,” wrote justice Kim Wardlaw in the majority opinion for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
I agree with the majority opinion. If a homeless person is not causing trouble, they should not be arrested simply for sleeping on a bench or curling up under a bridge. The City of Los Angeles would be better served - if they are indeed concerned about the problems associated with homelessness - by addressing the root causes, instead of punishing a person for simply being without a home.
Police action should be reserved for criminal activity; heck, I can think of at least a half-dozen times when I laid down on a public bench or on a lawn to catch a quick catnap. Should I, also, be subject to arrest?