Friday, June 20, 2014

LA's homeless allowed to live in cars, appeals court rules

A federal appeals court has struck down Los Angeles’ ban on homeless people living in vehicles, declaring that the law “opens the door to discriminatory enforcement” against the poor.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the city’s ordinance, which bans people from living in cars or recreational vehicles on city streets or in parking lots, is unconstitutionally vague.

“This broad and cryptic statute criminalizes innocent behavior, making it impossible for citizens to know how to keep their conduct within the pale,” Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the court.

The ban “is broad enough to cover any driver in Los Angeles who eats food or transports personal belongings in his or her vehicle,” the court said. “It appears to be applied only to the homeless.”

The ordinance can be violated even if somebody is not found sleeping in a vehicle and even if the car is not filled with loads of personal belongings, the court said. “There is no way to know what is required” to violate it, Pregerson wrote.

Despite attempts by the homeless to comply with the law, “there appears to be nothing they can do to avoid violating the statute short of discarding all of their possessions or their vehicles, or leaving Los Angeles,” the ruling said.

Read the Los Angeles Times report here. Read the court's decision here.

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