Can you still be arrested for Vagrancy?

inspired by:

in the Red Light thread.

Does anyone still get arrested for vagrancy? (The state of vagrancy being determined, IIRC, by having less that $5 cash on you.)

Personally, in this age of credit cards and ATMs every block, I often have less than $5 in my pocket. (Today’s a good day–$8.22.)

Do debit cards count? Am in danger of breaking the law?

Wait a minute. If they had a law like that, how could you ever get out of jail. The second you left after serving your time you’d be immediately breaking the law again.

But, in my experience, this law, if it exists, isn’t enforced in much of the southwest. When I was broke I was searched many times by cops and never had a problem.

You are vagrant if you can not access a certain abount of money. I think in most cases it is $10. All you have to do is prove that you have access to $10. Either on you, in the bank, via credit cards, i would even think assets like stocks, a house, automobiles would count too. You have to be pretty poor not to have $10 available to you. Also those that do get picked up for vagrancy proably are better off spending a night in a warm jail than on a cold park bench.

While it is true jail isn’t much of a punishment, it is still jail. I never met a beggar or day-laborer who purposefully kept extra money on them to prevent police action. I wouldn’t be surprised to here that this law is enforced in N.Y. or D.C. though. I doubt a cop would think such an offence is worth his trouble in less policed areas.

Vagrancy laws are having a tough time in the US these days. Courts are overturning vagrancy statutes as unconstitutional almost as a matter of course, usually for being too broad.

Communities are drawing up more specific laws that accomplish much the same purpose, but target a specific action as opposed to the more general vagrancy, loitering, or panhandling. Some cities couch these new statutes as camping or zoning ordinances.

Here’s a good discussion of the issue:

“The Supreme Court has ‘rejected the notion that a city is powerless to protect its citizens from unwanted exposure to certain methods of expression which may legitimately be deemed a public nuisance.’”

Cool. I can’t wait for PBS to stop pan-handling. :smiley:

I am now 65-years-old and teaching at a local university. However, as a youth (13-14) and runaway on the streets of south Florida, I was arrested numerous times for the crime of vagrancy. Yes! I have been jailed, many times, in America because I was poor.

Nevertheless, these laws are all but gone or non-enforceable in today’s America.

Now, all things being equal, never let it be said that one cannot be jailed in America for being poor. Been there, done that. Given the right opportunity, these laws can easily re-appear.

Professor A. Ray Yount, M.A.
Professor Communication Studies