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Friday, April 25, 2008

Jaywalking, Fines & Fees

Homeless people are placed in a position where they are likely to come into contact with law enforcement more frequently than the general population. Characteristically, the homeless tend to receive an inordinate number of citations for health and safety code violations; for jaywalking, loitering, sleeping in public places or doorways; for victimless misdemeanors, and other low-level offenses known as “Quality-of-Life” or “Presence” crimes. Faced with the daily struggle to find shelter and food while not becoming victims of crimes themselves, homeless people typically are not able to pay court ordered fines and fees, nor are they able to complete court ordered community service obligations. Consequently, misdemeanor cases and infraction citations are often not dealt with; the problem is compounded when warrants are issued and additional fines assessed. As a result, some homeless people are denied access to rehabilitative services they need to regain housing, employment, and their independence. Those rehabilitative services include mental health programs, substance abuse counseling, medical services, job training, housing and food vouchers. (Homeless Court Program Policy and Report, Adopted by the American Bar Association, House of Delegates, August 2006, pg. 1)

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