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Loitering is the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time without an apparent purpose. Under certain circumstances, it is illegal in various jurisdictions.
Prohibition and history
Legal issues in Canada and the United States
In many places loitering is a crime in and of itself. In other places loitering on public property is not necessarily illegal (unless loiterers are violating another law such as loitering to solicit for prostitution, begging, consuming alcoholic beverages in public, etc.). Loitering for the purpose of prostitution is illegal in all U.S. states.
In 1992, the City of Chicago adopted an anti-loitering law (Chicago Municipal Code 8-4-015 (1992)) aimed at restricting gang related activity, especially violent crime and drug trafficking. The law, which defined loitering as "remain(ing) in any one place with no apparent purpose," gave police officers a right to disperse such persons and in case of disobedience, provided for a punishment by fine, imprisonment and/or community service. It was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court of the United States (Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999)) as unacceptably vague and not giving citizens clear guidelines on what the acceptable conduct was. In 2000, the city adopted a revised version of the ordinance, in an attempt to eliminate the unconstitutional elements. Loitering was then defined as "remaining in any one place under circumstances that would warrant a reasonable person to believe that the purpose or effect of that behavior is to enable a criminal street gang to establish control over identifiable areas, to intimidate others from entering those areas, or to conceal illegal activities."
Police officers in South Australia may ask a person to stop loitering in a public place (in other words, to leave the place) where they believe on reasonable grounds: that an offence has been, or is about to be, committed by the person or by others in the vicinity (as more usually happens); that a breach of the peace has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur, in the vicinity of the person or group; that there is, or is about to be, an obstruction to pedestrians or traffic caused by the presence of the person or of others in the vicinity; that the safety of a person in the vicinity is in danger.