Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville

405 U.S. 156, 92 S. Ct. 839 (1972)



Jacksonville, Fla., Ordinance Code § 26-57, a vagrancy ordinance, is void for vagueness, both in the sense that it fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute and because it encourages arbitrary and erratic arrests and convictions.


The eight defendants were arrested under Jacksonville's vagrancy statute; none were engaged in any known criminal activity at the time they were detained. Four of the defendants, an interracial group of friends, were arrested for "prowling by auto" while driving to a nightclub, one defendant was arrested as a "vagabond" while waiting for a ride, two were charged with "loitering" while walking on a sidewalk, one was arrested as a "common thief" after being ordered out of his car in his girlfriend's driveway, and the last was charged with resisting arrest and "loitering" after being identified by a policeman as a generally opprobrious character. Defendants, in consolidated appeals, challenged the constitutionality of the vagrancy ordinance.



Is the contested law unconstitutional for being void for vagueness?




The court held § 26-57 was void for vagueness because it did not give fair notice of what conduct was forbidden and because it encouraged arbitrary and erratic arrests by the police. The Court noted § 26-57 criminalized otherwise normal activities and was so inclusive that it allowed punishment for virtually anything that affronted police authority.

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