Cities Can’t Prosecute Homeless People for Sleeping Outside

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, September 4, in Martin v. Boise to prohibit cities from prosecuting people for sleeping on public property or sidewalks when shelters are unavailable. The case was originally filed after six residents of the City of Boise were issued citations for violating the City’s Camping and Disorderly Conduct ordinances, which prohibited residents from sleeping in public places.

In an opinion written by Judge Marsha S. Berzon, the court found that the City’s rules constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The court also took issue with rules limiting the length of shelter stays and requiring people staying in shelters to participate in religious programs.

The ruling is of particular interest in California, where high housing costs have contributed to housing instability and homelessness. For more information on the topic, read the following news articles:

  1. SF Court: Cities can’t prosecute people for sleeping on streets
  2. Homelessness: It’s not a crime to sleep on the street — absent other options, court says
  3. Homeless People Cannot Be Prosecuted by Cities for Sleeping Outside If There’s No Access to Shelter, Appeals Court Rules
  4. Cities may not prosecute homeless people for sleeping outside if they have no access to shelter, appeals court