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Urban camping ban violation dismissed under wrong charge

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A woman who was ticketed for "unlawful camping" on Oct. 1, 2013, had her violation dismissed on Nov. 4, 2013. According to Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL):

"At court the city attorney dismissed the 'unlawful camping' under park violation 39-7a charge because this law does not apply during the day and thus does not apply to Nichole’s situation. The city attorney did not choose to add a charge for unauthorized camping (urban camping ban) which would be the accurate charge. When Magistrate Mark Muller called Nichole’s case his immediate response was 'Unlawful camping? I didn’t think the city was filing these cases.' Technically they are not. But in this case the ordinance the officer cited (39-7a) did not actually apply whereas the urban camping ban would."

Regarding Muller's comment that he didn't think the city was filing urban camping ban cases, DHOL explained that most often, "police approach someone because of the camping ban, tell them they can’t lie there, and if they don’t pick up their blankets and 'move along,' issue a ticket for another charge (such as park curfew, trespassing, or in this case 'unlawful camping' under park violations)." A survey conducted by DHOL in the winter of 2012 interviewed 500 people who were homeless confirming that many homeless people were being approached for covering themselves or sleeping, which is a violation of the urban camping ban. DHOL explained that by issuing charges other than the urban camping ban the city avoids "the constitutionality of the urban camping ban from being challenged in court--a challenge which the city’s attorneys have advised them (based on other cases and legal opinions nationwide) they could well lose."

DHOL argues that while the woman's charge was dismissed, "she still had to move on from the warmer place where she was resting at the time, and make it to court to settle the ticket." Critics of the urban camping ban see this as a form of harassment and argue that the city is pushing people who do not have a place to live to the outskirts of town, which is a form of class warfare. States such as Conn. and Ill. have adopted a Homeless Bill of Rights, which insist that homeless people have the right to, move freely in public spaces without threat of harassment or arrest from law enforcement; receive and maintain fair housing and employment; access to emergency medical care; and register to vote.

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