Crime & Justice

Court overturns LA law that bars living in cars (update)

In this file photo, a skater passes a van where a homeless person is sleeping July 13, 2004 in Venice, California. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a 1983 law prohibiting people from sleeping overnight in their vehicles was vaguely written and discriminates against homeless and poor people.
In this file photo, a skater passes a van where a homeless person is sleeping July 13, 2004 in Venice, California. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a 1983 law prohibiting people from sleeping overnight in their vehicles was vaguely written and discriminates against homeless and poor people.
David McNew/Getty Images

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A federal appeals court says a Los Angeles law that bars people from living in parked vehicles is unconstitutional.
 
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the 1983 law was vaguely written and discriminates against homeless and poor people. The three-judge panel ruled the law "opens the door to discriminatory enforcement against the homeless and the  poor."

RELATED: In Venice, car dwellers respond to prospect of 'safe' overnight parking
 
The decision came in a case brought on behalf of four people who were cited and arrested in the Venice area by police who concluded the numerous belongings in their RVs and cars meant they were violating the law.
 
The ruling overturned a lower court judge who had sided with the city.

The complaint stemmed from the 2010 arrests of Steve Jacob-Elstein, Chris Taylor, Patricia Warivonchik, William Cagle, who were all detained in separate encounters. The action was part of a Los Angeles Police Department effort to reduce the number of homeless people sleeping in cars in the gentrifying beachside neighborhood. 

"The court struck down the law," said attorney Carol Sobel who brought the case on behalf of the four detainees. "I think the message from the court to the city is 'You need to take a different approach. We're not going to let you put people in jail because they don't have a place to sleep.'"
 
Sobel said among the plaintiffs was a man who had lost his job, and later his house in the economic downturn. 

Document: Read the court decision