Friday, March 22, 2013
Sleeping at a bus stop no longer punishable as disorderly conduct in HB31
by Larry Geller
It seems that the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed with the testimony by the Office of the Public Defender on House Bill 31. From the committee report just posted:
Your Committee recognizes the concerns raised in the written testimony submitted by the Office of the Public Defender that the act of sleeping at or near a bus stop is not conduct or behavior that is inherently bad or unacceptable. The Office testified that under section 711-1101, Hawaii Revised Statutes, the offense of disorderly conduct involves the act of bad conduct or behavior that includes fighting, threatening, violent or tumultuous behavior, unreasonable noise, offensively coarse behavior, or abusive language, to name a few actions. The act of sleeping at or impeding access to a bus stop does not appear to align with the types of disorderly conduct specified under section 711-1101, Hawaii Revised Statutes.
Furthermore, the Office of the Public Defender raised concerns that this measure would be criminalizing homelessness, as a person sleeping at a bus stop may have refused accommodations at a shelter and may have chosen to remain on the street for various reasons. While your Committee recognizes the problems that individuals who impede access to or sleep at bus stops cause, homelessness is not and should not be a crime.
Good job by JDL.
Let’s see if their reasoning holds—the bill is still alive.
What’s left in it? Several grammatical corrections to the existing law.
If the House disagrees with the Senate version, a conference committee, unaccountable to the public, could decide on a final bill (if any).
So it isn’t over until those gavels sound on the last day of the session. But this is encouraging.