ACLU steps in to defend man cited for living in his truck
Published - 03/06/18 - 01:36 PM | 1336 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A man cited for allegedly living in his truck near Mission Beach got some support on March 6 from the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a friend of the court brief on his behalf, arguing the law he is accused of violating is vague, discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“This law doesn't adequately define what constitutes the criminal act of living in a vehicle,'' said Coleen Cusack, an attorney defending Tony Diaz. “The law is overbroad and may encompass innocent activities that many of us do every day in our vehicles, such as eating, reading or resting.''

On Sept. 21, 2016, a San Diego police officer issued the citation after he said he saw Diaz sleeping in a pickup truck parked in the Bonita Cove area of Mission Beach. Diaz challenged the citation but lost. The case is now under appeal.

“The practice of criminalizing poor and homeless people for engaging in basic life-sustaining activities like eating, sleeping, resting and seeking shelter is unjust, cruel and entrenches people in homelessness,'' said Anne M. Rios, executive director with Think Dignity, an organization that advocates for basic dignity and equitable treatment of people experiencing homelessness.

“When it is done under the guise of a vague and biased ordinance, it adds insult to injury.''

In their amicus brief, the ACLU and Think Dignity argue that the law does not offer clear guidelines for what is prohibited and invites arbitrary enforcement. Therefore, they say, it is impossible for ordinary people to know what actions might subject them to criminal penalties.
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