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It’s a Misdemeanor to Sleep in a Public Space in Las Vegas

It’s a Misdemeanor to Sleep in a Public Space in Las Vegas

On November 1, 2019, a new law went into effect in Las Vegas that prohibits individuals from sitting or sleeping in public areas when there are beds available at homeless shelters. Before the bill was passed, it was met with controversy, with people saying that it was a way to criminalize homelessness and avoid finding resources to help those in need.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman headed a meeting to hear comments from the public about the proposed ordinance. Each individual who chose to speak at the hearing was allotted 2 minutes to voice their opinions. Once their time was up, the microphone cut off, but concerned citizens continued to shout to be heard. Many said that the new law was a way for police to arrest and penalize homeless people who have nowhere else to go, and the ordinance makes the problem worse. Some of the people who spoke had to be escorted out of the hearing by marshals.

Aimed at Helping People Get Needed Services

The City of Las Vegas posted a press release on its site stating that the ordinance was not in place to punish homeless people; rather, it was proposed and approved to help those without somewhere to live to get the services they need. If an officer encounters a person sleeping or sitting in a public area, before making an arrest, they must inform the person of resources available at nearby homeless shelters.

Under the ordinance, it is illegal for a person to do any of the following in a public right-of-way:

  • Sit or lie down
  • Sit or lie down on a blanket, stool, or any other object; or
  • Camp or lodge

According to the city, to camp or lodge means to sleep or be in an outdoor shelter, cook over an open flame outside, or setting up a structure meant for temporary sleeping or living.

A public right-of-way includes a:

  • Street,
  • Alley,
  • Highway, or
  • Public sidewalk

Boise, Idaho passed a similar ordinance in the city, which a federal court deemed unlawful. It said that cities cannot pass laws that punish people who have no home and nowhere else to sleep but a public space. The Las Vegas ordinance differs from the Boise in that it states that the law cannot be enforced if public shelters are full.

Potential Conviction Penalties

Although the new ordinance went into effect in November of 2019, the penalties won't be enforced until February 1, 2020.

Before an officer can arrest a person under the new law, they must:

  • Inform the person that their behavior is unlawful,
  • Let them know services are available at local homeless shelters, and
  • Direct the person to an area that is not covered by the ordinance

A violation of the city law is a misdemeanor offense. If a person is convicted, they could face up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

If you or a loved one was charged with a crime in Las Vegas, reach out to The Draskovich Law Group as soon as possible. We have over 25 years of experience defending cases from drug crimes to sex offenses, and we are ready to put our knowledge and skills to work for you.

Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (702) 381-6590 or contacting us online.


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