New Court Decision Impacts Illegal Camping

According to this news article from Sacramento County, unbelievable!

The article.

Appeals Case Impacts Illegal Camping Ordinance


A federal court decision has ruled that illegal camping ordinances are unconstitutional and that local governments cannot cite or arrest anyone sleeping on public property.

On Sept. 4, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case Robert Martin v. City of Boise, stating that enforcing anti-camping ordinances when adequate shelter beds are unavailable is unconstitutional.

Because of that ruling, the Sacramento County Department of Parks stopped enforcing the City of Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance and the County ordinance prohibiting camping without a permit.

Since January 2018, Sacramento County rangers have issued 1,834 citations for unlawful camping under the County ordinance, and 224 citations for unlawful camping under the City of Sacramento ordinance.

The County is currently evaluating enforcement options under existing laws and regulations and will provide information to the Board on next steps.

Sacramento County Rangers will continue to enforce ordinances including but not limited to campfires, littering, dogs off leash, possession of a shopping cart and environmental degradation.

“As soon as I found out about the ruling, I suggested our board meet to discuss its implications, especially for my constituents who rightfully demand a clean and safe Parkway,” said First District Supervisor Phil Serna, who represents the lower reach of the American River Parkway.

“I have many questions, including why County Counsel advised that park rangers not enforce the illegal camping ordinance without notifying or coordinating with board members,” he continued.

Retrieved September 18, 2018 from

Here is the Sacramento Bee’s take

An excerpt.

After aggressively clearing homeless camps on the American River Parkway this year, Sacramento County park rangers have suddenly stopped issuing citations altogether after a federal court ruling this month.

The decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals may also force Sacramento police to reconsider their practice of ticketing homeless people who sleep outdoors.

The court ruled in a case brought by homeless plaintiffs in Boise, Idaho, that cities cannot punish homeless people for sleeping outside if no shelter beds are available to them. Doing so, said the Ninth Circuit, would be a form of cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

The Ninth Circuit is based in San Francisco and includes the western portion of the country, including all of California.

The ruling, issued earlier this month, is being hailed by homeless advocates who have long challenged cities that have ordinances banning camping in public and private spaces for extended periods of time. They have said such ordinances are targeted at homeless people and are discriminatory.

“I think this means we will not see camping citations issued in the future,” said Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Merin, who frequently has represented homeless clients. “If they are issued, I don’t think we’ll see the District Attorney prosecuting them.”

Both the city and the county of Sacramento have ordinances that bar prolonged camping without a permit.

Since January, county park rangers have issued 1,834 citations for unlawful camping under the county’s ordinance, and another 224 for the same violation under a city regulation, said a county spokesperson.

The county has stopped enforcing anti-camping regulations in light of the court ruling and is “currently evaluating enforcement options under existing laws and regulations,” said spokeswoman Kim Nava.

Sgt. Vance Chandler, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department, said he did not have accurate numbers for anti-camping citations issued by officers this year. He said the city is aware of the recent court case and is “discussing our plan moving forward.”

Merin wasn’t confident that the ruling would stop officers from moving homeless people from their sleeping spots. In the absence of enforcing anti-camping measures, he said the city and county could find other avenues, such as citing them for illegally possessing a shopping cart or illegal dumping.

Sacramento’s ordinances, which make it a misdemeanor to camp in undesignated areas for more than one night at a time, have spurred prolonged legal fights. Most recently, a Sacramento Superior Court jury last year decided that the city did not treat transients unfairly by enforcing its longtime ordinance prohibiting outdoor camping. Homeless plaintiffs had hoped to prove that the city was violating their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Retrieved September 19, 2018 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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