Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville
|Papachristou v. Jacksonville|
|Argued December 8–, 1971
Decided February 24, 1972
|Full case name||Margaret Papachristou et al. v. City of Jacksonville|
|Citations||405 U.S. 156 (more)
92 S. Ct. 839; 31 L. Ed. 2d 110; 1972 U.S. LEXIS 84
|Prior history||Certiorari to the District Court of Appeal of Florida, 236 So. 2d 141 (1970)|
|The court ruled that the Jacksonville vagrancy ordinance was unconstitutionally vague because people do not have fair notice of forbidden behavior and are arbitrarily arrested.|
|Majority||Douglas, joined by Burger, Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun|
|Powell and Rehnquist took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.|
Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972), was a United States Supreme Court case resulting in a Jacksonville vagrancy ordinance being declared unconstitutionally vague. The case was argued on December 8, 1971, and decided on February 24, 1972. The respondent was the city of Jacksonville, Florida.
Papachristou was one of eight defendants who were convicted for violating a Jacksonville, Florida, vagrancy ordinance which forbade a large number of activities including "wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object". The defendants were charged with several violations under the ordinance: prowling by auto, being vagabonds, loitering, being common thieves, disorderly loitering, and resisting arrest.
Opinion of the Court
The Court held that the vagrancy ordinance was unconstitutionally vague because it gave too much arbitrary power to the police. The court found that the laws could potentially criminalize a variety of innocent activities, such as "nightwalking," or "habitually living 'without visible means of support.'" A valid law, the Court found, needed to be clearly written and evenly administered.
The Court stated:
Those generally implicated by the imprecise terms of the ordinance -- poor people, nonconformists, dissenters, idlers -- may be required to comport themselves according to the lifestyle deemed appropriate by the Jacksonville police and the courts. Where, as here, there are no standards governing the exercise of the discretion granted by the ordinance, the scheme permits and encourages an arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law. It furnishes a convenient tool for "harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure." . . . It results in a regime in which the poor and the unpopular are permitted to "stand on a public sidewalk . . . only at the whim of any police officer."
- Text of Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972) is available from: Findlaw Justia resource.org
- Summary of the case from OYEZ
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