SACRAMENTO — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that it is unconstitutional for cities to issue citations to homeless people who sleep outside.
Arthur Bailey is one of many homeless people in Sacramento who feel uncomfortable sleeping in a city shelter. He prefers to stay and sleep outside.
But that often gets him hassled by police and at risk of a misdemeanor offense.
“Horrible. Makes me feel like I’m inhuman, like I’m not worth nothin’,” Bailey told FOX40.
The City of Sacramento has a no-camping ordinance. Technically, sleeping outside can get you a ticket.
But that policy may be in jeopardy.
Based on a case out of Boise, Idaho, a federal circuit court found if homeless people have no alternative shelter it’s unconstitutional for cities to prosecute them.
“Legally it’s because the 8th Amendment prevents cruel and unusual punishment,” said associate attorney Paul Masuhara.
Masuhara has worked on the issue in Sacramento. He says, at its core, criminalizing people for being homeless violates the Constitution.
He says, effectively, that’s what Sacramento’s camping ordinance does.
“They affect homeless persons the most and the most often because those are the people that are sleeping outside and therefore violating these laws,” Masuhara said.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg believes the ordinance is constitutional. Steinberg says the city’s policy is clear and in line with the 9th Circuit Court’s decision.
“We don’t cite and won’t cite unless there is an available shelter bed that the individual is offered and just won’t take,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg says it’s a hard policy to navigate, especially with so many homeless people like Bailey, who prefer the park to a shelter.
“I’m just trying to sleep,” Bailey said. “I’m not trying to cause any problems. I’m just trying to sleep here.”
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is well known for its progressive, liberal leaning decisions.
If the case is appealed it could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, it’s possible that Tuesday’s decision could be reversed.