L.A. Cannot Simply Seize Homeless People's Property, Federal Judge Says
A federal judge ruled on late Wednesday that the City of Los Angeles much give enough notice to homeless people before seizing and eventually destroying their property, even if it's sitting on public land. At the same time, the injunction also requires the city to keep impounded property in a significantly more accessible location, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ruling comes at the behest of a lawsuit filed last month after a group of homeless people and a pair of advocacy groups—the L.A. Community Action Network and the L.A Catholic Worker—sued the city of Los Angeles, claiming that L.A. was endangering the lives of the homeless by seizing their belongings without allowing adequate time for people to separate out their medication and medical supplies.
U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero explained in his ruling how "the city, in many instances, appears to be confiscating all property, without differentiating the types of property at issue or giving homeless people a meaningful opportunity to separate essential medications or medical equipment from their other property."
The judge continued, saying "some of the individual defendants appeared to take away property from a person lying on the sidewalk, visibly suffering physical pain."
On the flip side, the judge said the city can impound homeless people's belongings if there is contraband, criminal evidence, or hazardous material that can pose a health and safety issue for the general public.
The injunction is also only limited to areas in and around Skid Row, meaning that technically these rules do not apply in other parts (i.e. most) of the city, according to the Daily News.
Since this lawsuit was filed, the L.A. City Council passed legislation that limits the amount of stuff a homeless person may posses to what fits inside a 60-gallon bin. If they exceed the limit, or fail to break down their tents during daylight hours, homeless people can be cited or even arrested on misdemeanor charges.
Among other claims, the lawsuit argued the City of Los Angeles was engaging in a campaign to criminalize homelessness.