Federal Ruling Brings Homeless Belongings Ban Into Question

Michael Levine/Civil Beat

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in a Los Angeles case, recently said it is unconstitutional for the government to seize homeless people's temporarily unattended property.

But what does that mean for Honolulu's ordinance that prohibits people from leaving their stuff in public areas?

Hawaii is under the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction, but Honolulu legal experts say the city ordinance is different in a number of important ways from the Los Angeles policy and practice.

But Occupy Honolulu protester Andy Smith said the ruling offers a beacon of hope.

“It basically states what we’ve been stating all along,” he said. “It’s what we have been pushing for and trying to get accomplished.”

Critics have branded Honolulu's measure as a de facto ban against the homeless living on Oahu sidewalks. The law, approved by the Honolulu City Council late last year, allows Honolulu officials to confiscate items that have been left on public property for more than 24 hours after being marked with a warning notice.

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