385 U.S. 39 (1966), 19, Adderly v. Florida

Docket NºNo.19
Citation385 U.S. 39, 87 S.Ct. 242, 17 L.Ed.2d 149
Party NameAdderly v. Florida
Case DateNovember 14, 1966
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 39

385 U.S. 39 (1966)

87 S.Ct. 242, 17 L.Ed.2d 149





United States Supreme Court

Nov. 14, 1966

Argued October 18, 1966




Petitioners, 32 students, were members of a group of about 200 who on a nonpublic jail driveway, which they blocked, and on adjacent county jail premises had, by singing, clapping, and dancing, demonstrated against their schoolmates' arrest and perhaps against segregation in the jail and elsewhere. The sheriff, the jail's custodian, advised them that they were trespassing on county property and would have to leave or be arrested. The 107 demonstrators refusing to depart were thereafter arrested and convicted under a Florida trespass statute for "trespass with a malicious and mischievous intent." Petitioners contend that their convictions, affirmed by the Florida Circuit Court and the District Court of Appeal, deprived them of their "rights of free speech, assembly, petition, due process of law and equal protection of the laws" under the Fourteenth Amendment.


1. The Florida trespass statute, here applied to a demonstration on the premises of a jail, which is built for security purposes and is not open to the public, is aimed at conduct of a limited kind, and is not unconstitutionally vague, as were the common law breach of the peace statutes invalidated in Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, and Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 559. Pp. 41-43.

2. The doctrine of abatement is inapplicable here. Hamm v. City of Rock Hill, 379 U.S. 306, distinguished. P. 43.

3. The abstract proposition that petty criminal statutes may not be used to violate minorities' constitutional rights is irrelevant to this case. P. 44.

4. There was ample evidence to support petitioners' trespass convictions for remaining on jail grounds reserved for jail uses after they had been directed to leave by the sheriff. There was no evidence at all that petitioners were arrested or convicted for their views or objectives. Pp. 44-48.

175 So.2d 249, affirmed.

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BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, Harriett Louise Adderley and 31 other persons, were convicted by a jury in a joint trial in the County Judge's Court of Leon County, Florida, on a charge of "trespass with a malicious and mischievous intent" upon the premises of the county jail contrary to § 821.18 of the Florida statutes set out below.1 Petitioners, apparently all students of the Florida A. & M. University in Tallahassee, had gone from the school to the jail about a mile away, along with many other students, to "demonstrate" at the jail their protests of arrests of other protesting students the day before, and perhaps to protest more generally against state and local policies and practices of racial segregation, including segregation of the jail. The county sheriff, legal custodian of the jail and jail grounds, tried to persuade the students to leave the jail grounds. When this did not work, he notified them that they must leave, that, if they did not leave, he would arrest them for trespassing, and that, if they resisted, he would charge them with that as well. Some of the students left, but others, including petitioners, remained, and they were arrested. On appeal, the convictions were affirmed by the Florida Circuit [87 S.Ct. 244] Court and then by the Florida District Court of Appeal, 175 So.2d 249. That being the highest state court to which they could appeal, petitioners applied to us for certiorari

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contending that, in view of petitioners' purpose to protest against jail and other segregation policies, their conviction denied them "rights of free speech, assembly, petition, due process of law and equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States." On this "Question Presented," we granted certiorari. 382 U.S. 1023. Petitioners present their argument on this question in four separate points, and, for convenience, we deal with each of their points in the order in which they present them.


Petitioners have insisted from the beginning of this case that it is controlled by and must be reversed because of our prior cases of Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, and Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 559. We cannot agree.

The Edwards case, like this one, did come up when a number of persons demonstrated on public property against their State's segregation policies. They also sang hymns and danced, as did the demonstrators in this case. But here the analogies to this case end. In Edwards, the demonstrators went to the South Carolina State Capitol grounds to protest. In this case, they went to the jail. Traditionally, state capitol grounds are open to the public. Jails, built for security purposes, are not. The demonstrators at the South Carolina Capitol went in through a public driveway, and, as they entered, they were told by state officials there that they had a right as citizens to go through the State House grounds as long as they were peaceful. Here, the demonstrators entered the jail grounds through a driveway used only for jail purposes and without warning to or permission from the sheriff. More importantly, South Carolina sought to prosecute its State Capitol demonstrators by charging them with the common law crime of breach of the peace.

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This Court, in Edwards, took pains to point out at length the indefinite, loose, and broad nature of this charge; indeed, this Court pointed out at p. 237, that the South Carolina Supreme Court had itself declared that the "breach of the peace" charge is "not susceptible of exact definition." South Carolina's power to prosecute, it was emphasized at p. 236, would have been different had the State proceeded under a "precise and narrowly drawn regulatory statute evincing a legislative judgment that certain specific conduct be limited or proscribed" such as, for example, "limiting the periods during which the State House grounds were open to the public. . . ." The South Carolina breach of the peace statute was thus struck down as being so broad and all-embracing as to jeopardize speech, press, assembly and petition, under the constitutional doctrine enunciated in Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 307-308, and followed in many subsequent cases. And it was on this same ground of vagueness that, in Cox v. Louisiana, supra, at 551-552, the Louisiana breach of the peace law used to prosecute Cox was invalidated.

The Florida trespass statute under which these petitioners were charged cannot be challenged on this ground. It is aimed at conduct of one limited kind, that is, for one person or persons to trespass upon the property of another with a malicious and mischievous intent. There is no lack of notice in this law, nothing to entrap or fool the unwary.

Petitioners seem to argue that the Florida trespass law is void for vagueness because it requires a trespass [87 S.Ct. 245] to be "with a malicious and mischievous intent. . . ." But these words do not broaden the scope of trespass so as to make it cover a multitude of types of conduct, as does the common law breach of the peace charge. On the contrary, these words narrow the scope of the offense.

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The trial court charged the jury as to their meaning, and petitioners have not argued that this definition, set out below,2 is not a reasonable and clear definition of the terms. The use of these terms in the statute, instead of contributing to uncertainty and misunderstanding, actually makes its meaning more understandable and clear.


Petitioners in this Court invoke the doctrine of abatement announced by this Court in Hamm v. City of Rock Hill, 379 U.S. 306. But that holding was that the Civil Rights Act of 1064, 78 Stat. 241, which made it unlawful for places of public accommodation to deny service to any person because of race, effected an abatement of prosecutions of persons for seeking such services that arose prior to the passage of the Act. But this case in no way involves prosecution of petitioners for seeking service in establishments covered by the Act. It involves only an alleged trespass on jail grounds -- a trespass which can be prosecuted regardless of the fact that it is the means of protesting segregation of establishment covered by the Act.

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Petitioners next argue that "petty criminal statutes may not be used to violate minorities' constitutional rights." This, of course, is true, but this abstract proposition gets us nowhere in deciding this case.


Petitioners here contend that "Petitioners' convictions are based on a total lack of relevant evidence." If true, this would be a denial of due process under Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, and Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199. Both in the petition for certiorari and in the brief on the merits petitioners state that their summary of the evidence "does not conflict with the facts contained in the Circuit Court's opinion" which was, in effect, affirmed by the District Court of Appeal. 175 So.2d 249. That statement is correct, and petitioners' summary of facts, as well as that of the Circuit Court, shows an abundance of facts to support the jury's verdict of guilty in this case.

In summary, both these statements show testimony ample to prove this: disturbed and upset by the arrest of their schoolmates the day before, a large number of Florida A. & M. students assembled on the school grounds and decided to march down to the county jail. Some apparently wanted to be put in jail too, along with the students already there.3 A group of around 200 marched

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from the school and arrived at the jail singing and clapping.4 They went directly to the jail door entrance, where they were met by a deputy sheriff, evidently surprised by their arrival. He asked them to...

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