9th Circuit holds that the Constitution prohibits punishing homeless people for sleeping outdoors when there is no alternative

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment prevents a city from imposing criminal penalties on homeless persons when they have no legal alternative alternative. Martin v. City of Boise, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 9453 (9th Cir. 2019). The City of Boise had two municipal ordinances โ€“ disorderly conduct and anticamping laws โ€“ that prohibited sleeping in parks. After being convicted for violating those laws, homeless persons challenged them because there were not enough shelter beds for everyone and they had no other place to sleep. The city police responded by issue a "Special Order" prohibiting enforcement of either ordinance when none of the three existing shelters had "an available overnight space." However, the court found evidence that the police enforced the ordinances when shelter space was unavailable. Citing Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962), Jones v. City of Los Angeles, 444 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2006), Pottinger v. City of Miami, 810 F. supp. 151 (S.D. Fla 1992), and Johnson v. City of Dallas, 860 F.Supp. 344 (N.D. Tex. 1994), rev'd on other grounds, 61 F.3d 442 (5th Cir. 1995), the court issued an injunction requiring the city to refrain from enforcing the ordinances when the shelters are full. Quoting Jones, the court stated that "just as the state may not criminalize the state of being 'homeless in public places,' the state may not 'criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless โ€“ namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets."