United States Supreme Court
PAPACHRISTOU v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE, (1972)
Argued: December 8, 1971 Decided: February 24, 1972
- "[P]ersons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children" - like habitually living "without visible means of support" - might implicate unemployed pillars of the community who have married rich wives.
- "[P]ersons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children" may also embrace unemployed people out of the labor market, by reason of a recession 5 or disemployed by reason of technological or so-called structural displacements. [405 U.S. 156, 164]
- "Only a word needs to be said regarding Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451 . The case involved a New Jersey statute of the type that seek to control `vagrancy.' These statutes are in a class by themselves, in view of the familiar abuses to which they are put. . . . Definiteness is designedly avoided so as to allow the net to be cast at large, to enable men to be caught who are vaguely undesirable in the eyes of police and prosecution, although not chargeable with any particular offense. In short, these `vagrancy statutes' and laws against `gangs' are not fenced in by the text of the statute or by the subject matter so as to give notice of conduct to be avoided." Id., at 540.
- "The common ground which brings such a motley assortment of human troubles before the magistrates in vagrancy-type proceedings is the procedural laxity which permits `conviction' for almost any kind of conduct and the existence of the House of Correction as an easy and convenient dumping-ground for problems [405 U.S. 156, 168] that appear to have no other immediate solution." Foote, Vagrancy-Type Law and Its Administration, 104 U. Pa. L. Rev. 603, 631. 11
- "It would be in the highest degree unfortunate if in any part of the country those who are responsible for setting in motion the criminal law should entertain, connive at or coquette with the idea that in a case where there is not enough evidence to charge the prisoner with an attempt to commit a crime, the prosecution may, nevertheless, on such insufficient evidence, succeed in obtaining and upholding a conviction under the Vagrancy Act, 1824."
- "[I]f some carefree type of fellow is satisfied to work just so much, and no more, as will pay for one square meal, some wine, and a flophouse daily, but a court thinks this kind of living subhuman, the fellow can be forced to raise his sights or go to jail as a vagrant." Amsterdam, Federal Constitutional Restrictions on the Punishment of Crimes of Status, [405 U.S. 156, 171] Crimes of General Obnoxiousness, Crimes of Displeasing Police Officers, and the Like, 3 Crim. L. Bull. 205, 226 (1967).
Footnotes[ Footnote 1 ] Jacksonville Ordinance Code 26-57 provided at the time of these arrests and convictions as follows:
- "Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, [405 U.S. 156, 157] persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses."
- "The early Vagrancy Acts came into being under peculiar conditions utterly different to those of the present time. From the time of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century till the middle of the 17th century, and indeed, although in diminishing degree, right down to the reform of the Poor Law in the first half of the 19th century, the roads of England were crowded with masterless men and their families, who had lost their former employment through a variety of causes, had no means of livelihood and had taken to a vagrant life. The main causes were the gradual decay of the feudal system under which the labouring classes had been anchored to the soil, the economic slackening of the legal compulsion to work for fixed wages, the break up of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, and the consequent disappearance of the religious orders which had previously administered a kind of `public assistance' in the form of lodging, food and alms; and, lastly, the economic changes brought about by the Enclosure Acts. Some of these people were honest labourers who had fallen upon evil days, others were the `wild rogues,' so common in Elizabethan times and literature, who had been born to a life of idleness and had no [405 U.S. 156, 162] intention of following any other. It was they and their confederates who formed themselves into the notorious `brotherhood of beggars' which flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were a definite and serious menace to the community and it was chiefly against them and their kind that the harsher provisions of the vagrancy laws of the period were directed."
- "The bill contains many provisions that constitute an improvement [405 U.S. 156, 167] over existing law. Unfortunately, however, there are two provisions in the bill that appear objectionable.
- "Section 1 of the bill contains a number of clauses defining a `vagrant.' Clause 6 of this section would include within that category `any able-bodied person who lives in idleness upon the wages, earnings, or property of any person having no legal obligation to support him.' This definition is so broadly and loosely drawn that in many cases it would make a vagrant of an adult daughter or son of a well-to-do family who, though amply provided for and not guilty of any improper or unlawful conduct, has no occupation and is dependent upon parental support.
- "Under clause 9 of said section `any person leading an idle life . . . and not giving a good account of himself' would incur guilt and liability to punishment unless he could prove, as required by section 2, that he has lawful means of support realized from a lawful occupation or source. What constitutes `leading an idle life' and `not giving a good account of oneself' is not indicated by the statute but is left to the determination in the first place of a police officer and eventually of a judge of the police court, subject to further review in proper cases. While this phraseology may be suitable for general purposes as a definition of a vagrant, it does not conform with accepted standards of legislative practice as a definition of a criminal offense. I am not willing to agree that a person without lawful means of support, temporarily or otherwise, should be subject to the risk of arrest and punishment under provisions as indefinite and uncertain in their meaning and application as those employed in this clause.
- "It would hardly be a satisfactory answer to say that the sound judgment and decisions of the police and prosecuting officers must be trusted to invoke the law only in proper cases. The law itself should be so drawn as not to make it applicable to cases which obviously should not be comprised within its terms." H. R. Doc. No. 392, 77th Cong, 1st Sess.
- "The 1922 code was a step in the direction of precision in definition of crime, but it was not a complete departure from the concept of punishment in accordance with the dictates of the social consciousness of the judge. Laying hold of an old tsarist code provision that had been in effect from 1864 to 1903 known by the term `analogy,' the Soviet draftsmen inserted an article permitting a judge to consider the social danger of an individual even when he had committed no act defined as a crime in the specialized part of the code. He was to be guided by analogizing the dangerous act to some act defined as crime, but at the outset the analogies were not always apparent, as when a husband was executed for the sadistic murder of a wife, followed by dissection of her torso and shipment in a trunk to a remote railway station, the court arguing that the crime was analogous to banditry. At the time of this decision the code permitted the death penalty for banditry but not for murder without political motives or very serious social consequences."
- "On the traditionally important subject of criminal law, Algeria is rejecting the flexibility introduced in the Soviet criminal code by the `analogy' principle, as have the East-Central European and black African states." Hazard, The Residue of Marxist Influence in Algeria, 9 Colum. J. of Transnat'l L. 194, 224 (1970).
- Combined Vagrancy Suspicion Offenses _________ __________ _________
- Total Rate Total Rate Total Rate rptd. per rptd. per rptd. per Year * arrests 100,000 arrests 100,000 arrests 100,000 ____ _________________ _________________ _________________