Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville 8212 5030, No. 70

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation31 L.Ed.2d 110,405 U.S. 156,92 S.Ct. 839
Docket NumberNo. 70
Decision Date24 February 1972
PartiesMargaret PAPACHRISTOU et al., Petitioners, v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE. —5030

405 U.S. 156
92 S.Ct. 839
31 L.Ed.2d 110
Margaret PAPACHRISTOU et al., Petitioners,

v.

CITY OF JACKSONVILLE.

No. 70—5030.
Argued Dec. 8, 1971.
Decided Feb. 24, 1972.

Syllabus

The Jacksonville vagrancy ordinance, under which petitioners were convicted, is void for vagueness, in that it 'fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute,' it encourages arbitrary and erratic arrests and convictions, it makes criminal activities that by modern standards are normally innocent, and it places almost unfettered discretion in the hands of the police. Pp. 161—171.

236 So.2d 141, reversed.

Samuel S. Jacobson, Jacksonville, Fla., for petitioners.

T. Edward Austin, Jr., Jacksonville, Fla., for respondent.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves eight defendants who were convicted in a Florida municipal court of violating a Jacksonville, Florida, vagrancy ordinance.1 Their convictions, entailing fines and jail sentences (some of which were suspended),

Page 157

were affirmed by the Florida Circuit Court in a consolidated appeal, and their petition for certiorari was denied by the District Court of Appeal, 236 So.2d 141, on the authority of Johnson v. State, Fla., 202 So.2d 852.2 The case is

Page 158

here on a petition for certiorari, which we granted. 403 U.S. 917, 91 S.Ct. 2233, 29 L.Ed. 694. For reasons which will appear, we reverse.

At issue are five consolidated cases. Margaret Papachristou, Betty Calloway, Eugene Eddie Melton, and Leonard Johnson were all arrested early on a Sunday morning, and charged with vagrancy 'prowling by auto.'

Jimmy Lee Smith and Milton Henry were charged with vagrancy 'vagabonds.'

Henry Edward Heath and a codefendant were arrested for vagrancy—'loitering' and 'common thief.'

Thomas Owen Campbell was charged with vagrancy—'common thief.'

Hugh Brown was charged with vagrancy—'disorderly loitering on street' and 'disorderly conduct—resisting arrest with violence.'

The facts are stipulated. Papachristou and Calloway are white females. Melton and Johnson are black males. Papachristou was enrolled in a job-training program sponsored by the State Employment Service at Florida Junior College in Jacksonville. Calloway was a typing and shorthand teacher at a state mental institution located near Jacksonville. She was the owner of the automobile in which the four defendants were arrested. Melton was a Vietnam war veteran who had been released from the Navy after nine months in a veterans' hospital. On the date of his arrest he was a part-time computer helper while attending college as a full-time student in Jacksonville. Johnson was a tow-motor operator in a grocery chain warehouse and was a lifelong resident of Jacksonville.

At the time of their arrest the four of them were riding

Page 159

in Calloway's car on the main thoroughfare in Jacksonville. They had left a restaurant owned by Johnson's uncle where they had eaten and were on their way to a nightclub. The arresting officers denied that the racial mixture in the car played any part in the decision to make the arrest. The arrest, they said, was made because the defendants had stopped near a used-car lot which had been broken into several times. There was, however, no evidence of any breaking and entering on the night in question.

Of these four charged with 'prowling by auto' none had been previously arrested except Papachristou who had once been convicted of a municipal offense.

Jimmy Lee Smith and Milton Henry (who is not a petitioner) were arrested between 9 and 10 a.m. on a weekday in downtown Jacksonville, while waiting for a friend who was to lend them a car so they could apply for a job at a produce company. Smith was a part-time produce worker and part-time organizer for a Negro political group. He had a common-law wife and three children supported by him and his wife. He had been arrested several times but convicted only once. Smith's companion, Henry, was an 18-year-old high school student with no previous record of arrest.

This morning it was cold, and Smith had no jacket, so they went briefly into a dry cleaning shop to wait, but left when requested to do so. They thereafter walked back and forth two or three times over a two-block stretch looking for their friend. The store owners, who apparently were wary of Smith and his companion, summoned two police officers who searched the men and found neither had a weapon. But they were arrested because the officers said they had no identification and because the officers did not believe their story.

Heath and a codefendant were arrested for 'loitering' and for 'common thief.' Both were residents of Jacksonville, Heath having lived there all his life and being

Page 160

employed at an automobile body shop. Heath had previously been arrested but his codefendant had no arrest record. Heath and his companion were arrested when they drove up to a residence shared by Heath's girl friend and some other girls. Some police officers were already there in the process of arresting another man. When Heath and his companion started backing out of the driveway, the officers signaled to them to stop and asked them to get out of the car, which they did. Thereupon they and the automobile were searched. Although no contraband or incriminating evidence was found, they were both arrested, Heath being charged with being a 'common thief' because he was reputed to be a thief. The codefendant was charged with 'loitering' because he was standing in the driveway, an act which the officers admitted was done only at their command.

Campbell was arrested as he reached his home very early one morning and was charged with 'common thief.' He was stopped by officers because he was traveling at a high rate of speed, yet no speeding charge was placed against him.

Brown was arrested when he was observed leaving a downtown Jacksonville hotel by a police officer seated in a cruiser. The police testified he was reputed to be a thief, narcotics pusher, and generally opprobrious character. The officer called Brown over to the car, intending at that time to arrest him unless he had a good explanation for being on the street. Brown walked over to the police cruiser, as commanded, and the officer began to search him, apparently preparatory to placing him in the car. In the process of the search he came on two small packets which were later found to contain heroin. When the officer touched the pocket where the packets were, Brown began to resist. He was charged with 'disorderly loitering on street' and 'dis-

Page 161

orderly conduct—resisting arrest with violence.' While he was also charged with a narcotics violation, that charge was nolled.

Jacksonville's ordinance and Florida's statute were 'derived from early English law,' Johnson v. State, 202 So.2d, at 854, and employ 'archaic language' in their definitions of vagrants. Id., at 855. The history is an often-told tale. The break-up of feudal estates in England led to labor shortages which in turn resulted in the Statutes of Laborers,3 designed to stabilize the labor force by prohibiting increases in wages and prohibiting the movement of workers from their home areas in search of improved conditions. Later vagrancy laws became criminal aspects of the poor laws. The series of laws passed in England on the subject became increasingly severe.4

Page 162

But 'the theory of the Elizabethan poor laws no longer fits the facts,' Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 174, 62 S.Ct. 164, 167, 86 L.Ed. 119. The conditions which spawned these laws may be gone, but the archaic classifications remain.

This 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,' United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 617, 74 S.Ct. 808, 812, 98 L.Ed. 989, and because it encourages arbitrary and erratic arrests and convictions. Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 60 S.Ct. 736, 84 L.Ed. 1093; Herndon v. Lowry, 301 U.S. 242, 57 S.Ct. 732, 81 L.Ed. 1066.

Living under a rule of law entails various suppositions, one of which is that '(all persons) are entitled to be informed as to what the State commands or forbids.' Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451, 453, 59 S.Ct. 618, 619, 83 L.Ed. 888.

Lanzetta is one of a well-recognized group of cases insisting that the law give fair notice of the offending conduct. See Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 385, 391, 46 S.Ct. 126, 127, 70 L.Ed. 322; Cline v. Frink Dairy Co., 274 U.S. 445, 47 S.Ct. 681, 71 L.Ed. 1146; United States v. L. Cohen Grocery Co., 255 U.S. 81, 41 S.Ct. 298, 65 L.Ed. 516. In the field of regulatory statutes governing business activities, where the acts limited are in a narrow category, greater leeway is allowed. Boyce Motor Lines, Inc. v. United States, 342 U.S. 337, 72 S.Ct. 329, 96 L.Ed. 367; United States v. National Dairy Products Corp., 372 U.S. 29, 83 S.Ct. 594, 9 L.Ed.2d 561; United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1, 67 S.Ct. 1538, 91 L.Ed. 1877.

The poor among us, the minorities, the average householder are not in business and not alerted to the regula-

Page 163

tory schemes of vagrancy laws; and we assume they would have no understanding of their meaning and impact if they read them. Nor are they protected from being caught in the vagrancy net by the necessity of having a specific intent to commit an unlawful act. See Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 65 S.Ct. 1031, 89 L.Ed. 1495; Boyce Motor Lines, Inc. v. United States, supra.

The Jacksonville ordinance makes criminal activities which by modern standards are normally innocent. 'Nightwalking' is one. Florida construes the ordinance not to make criminal one night's wandering, Johnson v. State, 202 So.2d, at 855, only the 'habitual' wanderer or, as the ordinance describes it, 'common night...

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1586 practice notes
  • McLaughlin v. City of Lowell, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-10270-DPW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • October 23, 2015
    ...Places: Courts, Communities, and the New Policing, 97 COLUM. L. REV. 551, 610-11 (1997). See, e.g., Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972) (vagrancy); Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 103 S.Ct. 1855, 75 L.Ed.2d 903 (1983) (loitering). Becaus......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 3, 2012
    ...98 L.Ed. 989 (1954), or if it “encourages arbitrary and erratic” enforcement by public officials. Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 162, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972). “The vice of unconstitutional vagueness is [ ] aggravated where ... the statute in question operate......
  • Al Bahlul v. United States, No. 11–1324.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 14, 2014
    ...exercise in crime by analogy,” Pet'r's Reply Br. 21, that the Supreme Court has condemned, see, e.g., Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 168–69, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972), and the law of war forbids, see, e.g., Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court art. 22, Jul......
  • City of Mesquite v. Aladdin Castle, Inc, No. 80-1577
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1982
    ...of vagueness. First, vague laws do not give individuals fair notice of the conduct proscribed. Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 162. [92 S.Ct. 839, 843, 31 L.Ed.2d 110] Accord Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 & n. 3. [92 S.Ct. 2294, 2298, 33 L.Ed.2d 222] Sec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1579 cases
  • McLaughlin v. City of Lowell, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-10270-DPW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • October 23, 2015
    ...Places: Courts, Communities, and the New Policing, 97 COLUM. L. REV. 551, 610-11 (1997). See, e.g., Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972) (vagrancy); Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 103 S.Ct. 1855, 75 L.Ed.2d 903 (1983) (loitering). Becaus......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 3, 2012
    ...98 L.Ed. 989 (1954), or if it “encourages arbitrary and erratic” enforcement by public officials. Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 162, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972). “The vice of unconstitutional vagueness is [ ] aggravated where ... the statute in question operate......
  • Al Bahlul v. United States, No. 11–1324.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 14, 2014
    ...exercise in crime by analogy,” Pet'r's Reply Br. 21, that the Supreme Court has condemned, see, e.g., Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 168–69, 92 S.Ct. 839, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972), and the law of war forbids, see, e.g., Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court art. 22, Jul......
  • City of Mesquite v. Aladdin Castle, Inc, No. 80-1577
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1982
    ...of vagueness. First, vague laws do not give individuals fair notice of the conduct proscribed. Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 162. [92 S.Ct. 839, 843, 31 L.Ed.2d 110] Accord Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 & n. 3. [92 S.Ct. 2294, 2298, 33 L.Ed.2d 222] Sec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1971-1972
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 25-4, December 1972
    • December 1, 1972
    ...way of defense or extenuation. The Jacksonville, Florida, vagrancy ordinance was challenged in Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville (405 U.S. 156; 92 S. Ct. 839) . Eight persons had been con-victed of violating the ordinance which was phrased in general terms and such matters as &dquo;strol......
  • The End of an Era? Understanding the Contradictions of Criminal Justice Reform
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 664-1, March 2016
    • March 1, 2016
    ...and the International Centre for prison Studies’ World prison Brief, respectively. 2. See especially papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972).3. See furman v. Georgia 408 U.S. 238 (1972); Gregg v. Georgia, proffitt v. florida, Jurek v. Texas, Woodson v. North Carolina, and ......
  • What Works in Policing?
    • United States
    • Police Quarterly Nbr. 11-3, September 2008
    • September 1, 2008
    ...New York:Author.New York Police Department. (2002). Nuisance abatement strategy. New York:Author.Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville,405 U.S. 156 (1972).Raudenbush, S. W., & Byrk,A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysismethods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: S......

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