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Crime and Courts

Judge rules that Denver’s urban camping ban is unconstitutional

Denver County Judge Johnny C. Barajas cited a decision last year from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a ban on camping in public places in Boise, Idaho

Downtown Denver and Speer Boulevard are pictured on November 11, 2019. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

 A Denver urban camping ban enacted in 2012 constitutes cruel and unusual punishment against the homeless and is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Friday.

Denver County Judge Johnny C. Barajas cited a decision last year from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a ban on camping in public places in Boise, Idaho, The Denver Post reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined this month to hear an appeal of that decision.

Denver officials didn’t immediately respond to Friday’s decision. But the Post reported that an appeal is likely.

Ryan Luby, a city attorney’s spokesperson, described the ordinance last week as “carefully crafted and thoughtfully enforced.”

City voters rejected a ballot measure in May that would have overturned the camping ban.

In his decision, Barajas granted a motion by Jerry Burton, a homeless advocate, to dismiss a ticket he received for violating Denver’s ban.

The judge also cited the 9th Circuit decision written by Judge Marsha Berzon.

“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter,” Berzon wrote.


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