The City of Apache Junction has criminalized its homeless population with an “anti-camping ordinance,” which the council should repeal immediately.
This vague and overbroad law defines camping as setting up or remaining in any public place, including sidewalks, streets, and parks, “where any bedding, sleeping bag or other sleeping matter is placed.” Homeless people, who have no choice but to sleep in public areas, are now subject to severe fines and lengthy imprisonment simply for unfurling a sleeping bag.
With this anti-camping ordinance, Apache Junction is in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that criminalizing sleeping in public when no shelter is available violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, it seems that Apache Junction has only enforced the ordinance against homeless people. This discriminatory application of the ordinance to a select group of individuals violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Homeless people should not be permanently branded as criminals simply by conducting ordinary human activity like sleeping, sitting, or placing things on the ground in public.