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New ordinance may make sleeping in public places a crime

It seems that Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, has seen a considerable rise in its homeless population over the past year. A count performed in February indicated that there were 78 adults and 34 children residing on the streets, in transitional housing or in emergency shelters. Reports indicate that these figures are 16 times higher than they were last year for the parish. Since then, many people have complained about these individuals sleeping in parks and accosting individuals who walk by. The Public Services Committee is considering an ordinance to make sleeping in parks and other public places a misdemeanor. It is expected that the committee will approve this ordinance and many are up in arms about this.

According to opponents of the ordinance, this sort of misdemeanor will make it a crime to be poor because the status of being homeless is being criminalized. Instead of creating a crime to use against individuals who choose to sleep in these locations, opponents suggest that Terrebone Parish work on the services that can help eliminate homelessness. Facilities such as the Beautiful Beginnings Center and the Bunkhouse already exist, but officials at Beautiful Beginnings said there is a long wait list to get in, with calls requesting for help coming at a higher rate than ever before.

If this is true, then it is likely that a large number of individuals will be affected by the proposed misdemeanor. If it is approved, there is precedence regarding a federal ruling on a similar decree in another state. When people who had nowhere else to sleep were punished for sleeping in public, a judge ruled that it was in violation of those individuals' rights to travel and against cruel and unusual punishment.

If you have been accused of misdemeanor charges, whether it involves sleeping in public or other sort of crime, speak with an experienced Louisiana criminal defense attorney about your case.

Source: Sun Herald, "Louisiana parish takes on the sleeping homeless" No author given, Aug. 11, 2013

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