Along with implied consent, (and loitering for that matter, but considerably worse), this is one of the messed up things about law in America and elsewhere. Like implied consent, it addresses real problems but goes way beyond.

Most basically, the word "vagrancy" means being homeless and unemployed. Vagrancy is also outlawed in by many ordinances. To be sure, being homeless or unemployed is not directly outlawed--but homeless and unemployed behavior, such as begging or sleeping in a park, is outlawed. Also, vagrancy is frequently attached to some other unlawful behavior, often prostitution or public drunkenness.

Hmm. Many others have discussed this, but I'll leave it at this. It's pretty messed up when it's not legal to be independent and living without means--something that was once regarded in other situations as being heroic. Naturally, there's nothing heroic about the town drunk this law targets, but the basic thrust of the laws are outlawing poverty to please the affluent.

That said, I think America is not known for the worst abuses of vagrancy law.

I don't follow the American situation as closely as I do the Canadian, but I do know that the favourite model for many Canadian lawmakers today is the American.

In Toronto, Ontario, many, many people are now homeless due to dramatic changes in the provincial laws governing renters. And these people now on the streets are subject to further eviction because they are offensive to those who still have the money to rent, or own their homes.

The American model, as I've sometimes seen portrayed in American media--not often, mind you--is to remove the homeless to rural areas, old military bases, and the like--anywhere not to mar the Disneyland of the greatest country in the world. And this is what Canada wants to be, too.

Maybe, as blaaf suggests, America is not known for the worst abuses of vagrancy law--but weren't these laws used when Jim Crow no longer made good press?

In Michigan at least, you can be arrested for vagrancy if a cop pulls you over (walking) and you are not in possession of both a driver's license (or state ID) and at least three dollars in cash.

It's a good loophole thing to arrest innocent people for when they piss off cops--every time there's a demonstration or something, the cops usually just arrest and book everybody without an ID or $3.00 US for vagrancy. That way they don't have to deal with that pesky amendment about freedom to gather and protest...

I have to admit, even the IDEA of it being a crime to not be in possession of at least some government money damn near makes me ill. If it bothers you too, here's a quick fix for that feeling in your gut--take a marker and draw the Illuminati symbol on all your bill-money. It's technically legal, it makes a point and it makes the bad guys look bad. You could burn your money, but that's illegal (?!) and costs...still, lighting a cig with a dollar bill every once in a while would probably feel good, don't you think?

Va"gran*cy (?), n.

The quality or state of being a vagrant; a wandering without a settled home; an unsettled condition; vagabondism.

Threatened away into banishment and vagrancy. Barrow.

 

© Webster 1913.

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