Palmer v. City of Euclid, Ohio

Decision Date24 May 1971
Docket NumberNo. 143,143
Citation402 U.S. 544,91 S.Ct. 1563,29 L.Ed.2d 98
PartiesJames PALMER, Appellant, v. CITY OF EUCLID, OHIO
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Niki Z. Schwartz, Cleveland, Ohio, for appellant.

David J. Lombardo, Cleveland, Ohio, for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

Appellant Palmer was convicted by a jury of violating the City of Euclid's 'suspicious person ordinance,' that is, of being

'(a)ny person who wanders about the streets or other public ways or who is found abroad at late or unusual hours in the night without any visible or lawful business and who does not give satisfactory account of himself.'

He was fined $50 and sentenced to 30 days in jail. The County Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio was dismissed 'for the reason that no substantial constitutional question exists herein.' We noted probable jurisdiction. 397 U.S. 1073, 90 S.Ct. 1525, 25 L.Ed.2d 808 (1970).

We reverse the judgment against Palmer because the ordinance is so vague and lacking in ascertainable standards of guilt that, as applied to Palmer, it failed to give 'a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden * * *.' United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 617, 74 S.Ct. 808, 812, 98 L.Ed. 989 (1954).

The elements of the crime defined by the ordinance apparently are (1) wandering about the streets or being abroad at late or unusual hours; (2) being at the time without visible or lawful business;* and (3) failing to give a satisfactory explanation for his presence on the streets. Palmer, in his car, was seen late at night in a parking lot. A female left his car and entered by the front door an adjoining apartment house. Palmer then pulled onto the street, parked with his lights on, and used a two-way radio. He was not armed. He said he had just let off a friend. He was then arrested. At the station he gave three different addresses for himself and said he did not know his friend's name or where she was going when she left his car. Palmer could reasonably be charged with knowing that he was on the streets at a late or unusual hour and that denying knowledge of his friend's identity and claiming multiple addresses amounted to an unsatisfactory explanation under the ordinance. But in our view the ordinance gave insufficient notice to the average person that discharging a friend at an apartment house and then talking on a car radio while parked on the street was enough to show him to be 'without any visible or lawful business.' Insofar as this record reveals, everything appellant did was quite visible and there is no suggestion whatsoever that what he did was unlawful under local, state, or federal law. If his conduct nevertheless satisfied the being-without-visible-or-lawful-business element of the ordinance, as the state courts must have held, it...

To continue reading

Request your trial
103 cases
  • Goldin v. Public Utilities Commission
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • March 15, 1979
    ...to raise them. With respect to the matter of vagueness petitioner places heavy reliance on the case of Palmer v. City of Euclid (1971) 402 U.S. 544, 91 S.Ct. 1563, 29 L.Ed.2d 98, wherein the Supreme Court, in a short per curiam opinion, struck down a city's "suspicious person ordinance" on ......
  • Bambu Sales, Inc. v. Gibson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • August 6, 1979
    ...face, Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972), or as applied, Palmer v. City of Euclid, 402 U.S. 544, 91 S.Ct. 1563, 29 L.Ed.2d 98 (1971), although this distinction appears to be related to the extent and scope of the remedy rather than to the defect ......
  • Goguen v. Smith, 72-1204.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • December 14, 1972
    ...Oswald, 336 F.Supp. 371 (S.D.N.Y.1971), aff'd, 406 U.S. 913, 92 S.Ct. 1773, 32 L.Ed.2d 113 (1972); but cf. Palmer v. City of Euclid, 402 U.S. 544, 91 S.Ct. 1563, 29 L.Ed.2d 98 (1971). 9 The Court did not rest its decisions in these cases on the Raines exception allowing void-for-vagueness a......
  • National Socialist White People's Party v. Ringers
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • February 5, 1973
    ... ... Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447, 89 S.Ct. 1827, 1829, 23 L.Ed.2d 430 (1969), or where ... City of Oakland, 247 F.Supp. 995, 1001 (N.D.Cal.1965); Williams v. Wallace, 240 ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT