Jury Rules in City’s Favor: Sacramento’s No-Camping Ordinance Does Not Discriminate Against Homeless

SACRAMENTO -- The verdict is in for the trial on the legality of Sacramento's no-camping ordinance.

The jury delivered a verdict in favor of the city, meaning homeless people will continue to be cited for camping out on the streets.

After deliberating more than three hours, the jury returned a 9-3 verdict that went against civil rights attorney Mark Merin and plaintiff John Kraintz, saying the city's no camping ordinance did not discriminate against homeless people.

The lawsuit claimed the city of Sacramento ordinance was unconstitutional because it selectively enforced against homeless people to keep them on the move and out of sight. Other residents who are not homeless and who routinely "camp out" to get special retail deals at shopping malls are not threatened with arrest.

A lawyer for the homeless argued people who camp out for concerts, movies or new shoes don't get ticketed -- so why should the homeless?

Despite the loss, Merin called it a very positive experience and said they have something to build on.

"We have to just stop the police from using the anti-camping ordinance as a way of driving homeless people away from the public so that the public then doesn't even consider it or discuss the issue. And the next step for us is Federal Court," Merin said.

Merin said he plans to build on the fact that the public is now starting to really understand the problem with the no-camping ordinance and will take the case to federal court in about 30 days.

"They are spending a fortune, and uselessly, driving homeless people away ... prosecuting them. If they took even a portion of those funds used for the criminalization of homeless people and put it into trying to solve the problem, providing safe grounds. That's what we are looking for, and I think it's coming. It's got to come," Merin said.

"I think people are going to have to watch this thing with an open mind and try and think of realistic solutions, rather than just punishment." Kraintz said.

The city released the following statement:

“We are pleased the jury returned a verdict in favor of the city.  The city and its dedicated police officers respect the rights of all individuals, and do not unlawfully discriminate against the homeless or those who advocate for the homeless.

Ordinances are adopted and enforced for the benefit of the public— the community as a whole. When an ordinance is intended to preserve the peace and welfare of the community, it is only right that the city enforce it, when persons knowingly and willfully ignore the city’s warnings.”

Kraintz doesn't agree and gave out his own warning.

"When you don't choose someplace for people to go, you've chosen everyplace for people to go by default. Because they aren't just going to evaporate. And we can't push it on to our neighbors because they've already got their own homeless problem to deal with," he said.