Features Feb 15, 2017 at 4:00 am

Inside the Case That Could Protect Homeless People Against Unwarranted Police Searches

The Stranger


The distinction is not "wooden walls vs. tent walls" or "permanent ceiling vs. temporary ceiling."

The distinction is "public land vs. private land." Public land does not become private land when someone lays a tarp down on it and declares it "theirs."
@1: That's not strictly true. Look up "Squatters Rights" laws.
@2 As I understand it, squatters right take time to become applicable and vary quite a bit from state to state.
@2: Please, it is not the 1800's anymore. Squatting really is no longer legal (mostly depends on the willingness of the owner/law enforcement to do anything), and you could never just claim publicly owned land for yourself by laying down a tarp.
@1: The actual standard is the one Ms. Groover identified in the article: reasonable expectation of privacy.

You are correct that the line is not between wood vs tent or permanent vs temporary. But the line is also not public vs private. As an example, even a military barracks room—a highly regulated, publicly owned space, one whose occupants obviously have zero private ownership interest—cannot be searched without a warrant or other form of legal authorization like exigent circumstances, because the barracks' servicemember occupants have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

So as Ms. Groover said, the question becomes, what reasonable expectation of privacy does the occupant of an unlawful tarp shelter have? Our society, through its legislatures and courts, has not yet answered that question.
@5: Yes, and it is very clear from a legal perspective that you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when breaking the law on public land. This question was settled quite some time ago.
There is No reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Public. I would think the same goes for sleeping in Public,on Public Property, etc.
@7: Not entirely true, I still have the expectation that the contents of my pocket, or the items in the glove box of my car are private when in a public place.

But, if I break the law in a public place and get arrested or searched by police because of it, then I do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The reason the police were even there was because this guy was breaking the city ordinance by camping on public land outside of acceptable hours.
Most "homeless" people are not "homeless" they are vagrants. Look it up, it's in the dictionary.
Most vagrants are either drug addicts or alcoholics, that's why they now live on the streets.

Living on public streets requires you to expose yourself to the public. This means that everything that is in public view is available for the public, or in this case the police, to view.

If you look at the statistics available, you'll find that most homeless people are only temporarily homeless. Most homeless people find housing of one sort or another within a matter of weeks. Turnover in "the homeless population" is very high.

You can go ahead and speculate all you like about the nature of the long-term homeless people, but you're not going to get away with conflating that small fraction with "most homeless people."
@9 Oh, did I forget to include that a person who abstains from tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, is jobless, and homeless, won't be in that situation for long in Seattle? I usually do include that in my statement. There is plenty of housing available for the truly homeless in Seattle.
@9 Just to take you back to the context of the article robotslave, the article talks about a drug addict, a meth head, who loves to get high, stay up all night, play with himself, trying to make it come, only to wake up the next morning sore.

Thanks for your opinion about... masturbation?


As the man said to the dog, "I'm not even mad, that's amazing!"
@6: The courts have indeed decided the issue of illegal public camping, just not in the direction you think.

See State of Washington v. Wyatt, linked below, in which the Washington Court of Appeals found that illegal campers can have a privacy interest in their tents on public land under the Washington Constitution. The Wyatt Court also cites the federal 9th circuit case US v Sandoval for the holding that illegal public lands campers may still retain a reasonable expectation of privacy in their tents under the US Constituiton as well.

This court will have to face Ms. Groover's question head-on: How homelike does an illegal tarp shelter have to be before there attaches a reasonable expectation of privacy?

"Although homelessness nationwide has decreased in recent years, it's on the rise in Washington State."

Gee, I wonder why? And then, a few paragraphs down, we get the answer:

" Word got out, and the camp at the edge of town grew.
"As soon as they provided a little bit of hope to the homeless community, they thought they could camp," Kravitz says. "Nobody really dived into the letter of the law. They just thought, 'We can camp,' and it spread like wildfire."

BTW, did Pippin respect the privacy rights of the victims he burglarized to fund his drug habit? If you camp illegally on public space, you have no expectation of privacy, because it is NOT YOUR PROPERTY.
This is a superb article. Thank you Heidi.
give me a break. you can't plop down a freaking tarp wherever you want and say, "this is my home" - you don't own the land, you aren't renting the land, etc. this isn't brain surgery here. why would any city on this earth encourage this crap?

gotta give those "social justice" majors some busy work though...
It may not be a house, but it sure is a home.

And don't get me started on public vs private land, that's a very thin argument, coming from colonizer-spawn.

There's a cold place in Hell for someone who'll take a person's sleeping bag.
Or maybe i should say a very *rich* argument. 😆
@20, ok then - legal camping EVERYWHERE! Yay!

The homeless certainly have their problems, but I kind of doubt being insufficiently miserable is one of them.
@6 If someone illegally parked an RV, LE cannot enter the vehicle because they broke a law.
A better question is this: Why are there thrice as many empty houses than "officially" homeless U.S.A.ers? In 2017? But We the Taxpayers can afford an Upper Class? A two-TRILLION-Feudal Reserve Note "upgrade" of the nuclear-bomb system? No maximum wage? Missing trillions? Really? Pfft!!! Do everybody a favor and write a fucking story about those ( along with adverse possession, squatting, and stealth camping . . . .)
Who gets to decide what a home is? Rich White Racists?

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