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/
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.