Three homeless defendants will take their camping tickets to trial in Denver this week

From the Denverite

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A Denver police officer issues a warning to a homeless person camped in front of the City and County Building on the night of. Nov. 28, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In the five years since Denver passed its ban on homeless camping, Denver police have rarely issued tickets, instead telling people to “move along” to less visible locations. But back in November, three people stood their ground, ignored warnings and got tickets.

These homeless defendants pleaded not guilty, and this week, they’re headed to a jury trial in the first real challenge to the city’s ordinance.

The camping tickets are ostensibly simple criminal cases, and Jason Flores-Williams, the attorney representing the defendants, says he’ll mount a defense that focuses on factual issues around the tickets and how the city implements its ordnance. Nonetheless, he believes Denver’s ordinance is unconstitutional and that if convicted, his clients would have a strong basis to appeal.

“Camping is something you do in Rocky Mountain National Park with a 12-pack of beer,” Flores-Williams said. “When people are sleeping on the sidewalk with a blanket, that is not camping.”

Flores-Williams has also filed a separate civil rights lawsuit against the city over how it handles the belongings of homeless people who are caught up in “sweeps.”


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