Adderley v. State of Florida

Citation17 L.Ed.2d 149,385 U.S. 39,87 S.Ct. 242
Decision Date14 November 1966
Docket NumberNo. 19,19
PartiesHarriett Louise ADDERLEY et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF FLORIDA
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

See 385 U.S. 1020, 87 S.Ct. 698.

Richard Yale Feder, Miami, Fla., for petitioners.

William D. Roth, Tallahassee, Fla., for respondent, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

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 mail 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 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 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, 86 S.Ct. 643, 15 L.Ed.2d 538. 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, 83 S.Ct. 680, 9 L.Ed.2d 697, and Cox v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 559, 85 S.Ct. 453, 476, 13 L.Ed.2d 471, 487. 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 Capital 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 Capital 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 Capital demonstrators by charging them with the common-law crime of breach of the peace. 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, 372 U.S. at p. 237, 83 S.Ct. at p. 684, 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, 372 U.S. at p. 236, 83 S.Ct. at p. 684 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. State of Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 307—308, 60 S.Ct. 900, 904 905, 84 L.Ed. 1213 and followed in many subsequent cases. And it was on this same ground of vagueness that in Cox v. State of Louisiana, supra, 379 U.S. at 551—552, 85 S.Ct. at 462—463, 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 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. 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, 85 S.Ct. 384, 13 L.Ed.2d 300. But that holding was that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 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 establishments covered by the Act.


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, 82 S.Ct. 248, 7 L.Ed.2d 207, and Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 624, 4 L.Ed.2d 654. 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 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 move back, claiming they were blocking the entrance to the jail and fearing that they might attempt to enter the jail. They moved back part of the way, where they stood or sat, singing, clapping and dancing on the jail driveway and on an adjacent grassy area upon the jail premises. This particular jail entrance and driveway were not normally used by the public, but by the sheriff's department for transporting prisoners to and from the courts several blocks away and by commercial concerns for servicing the jail. Even after their partial retreat, the demonstrators continued to block vehicular passage over this driveway up to the entrance of the jail.5 Someone called the sheriff who was at the moment apparently conferring with one of the state court judges about incidents connected with prior arrests for demonstrations. When the sheriff returned to the jail, he immediately inquired if all was safe inside the jail and was told it was. He then engaged in a conversation with two of the leaders. He told them that they were trespassing upon jail property and that he would give them 10 minutes to leave or he would arrest them. Neither of the leaders did anything to disperse the crowd, and one of them told the sheriff that they wanted to get arrested. A local minister talked with some of the demonstrators and told them not to enter the jail, because they could not arrest themselves, but just to remain where they were. After about 10 minutes, the sheriff, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all, told the demonstrators that he was the legal custodian of the...

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