State supreme court affirms law does not permit criminalization of homelessness
BOSTON — In a case decided today by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, regarding application of the “necessity defense,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts successfully defended the rights of a man charged with trespassing in the hallway of mixed-use property after being unable to access emergency shelter during bitter winter cold.
The following statement may be attributed to Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts:
“Today’s landmark, unanimous ruling has affirmed, e.in the state high court’s own words that ‘our law does not permit the punishment of the homeless simply for being homeless.’
“The necessity defense provides a critical safety valve, which allows juries to acquit individuals when they determine that following the law would cause more harm than breaking it.
“This case provides a quintessential example of an instance where the necessity defense is required. Mr Magadini trespassed in the hallway of mixed-use property, but only to escape bitter cold after being denied access to emergency shelter.
“Today’s decision confirms that poverty is not a crime in the Commonwealth, reinforces the very purposes of the necessity defense and ensures that people in the Commonwealth have a voice and an opportunity to decide how we as a community are going to address the issue of homelessness.”
For more information about the case, Commonwealth v. Magadini, go to: https://aclum.org/cases-briefs/commonwealth-v-magadini/
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.