CERTIORARI TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA, FIRST DISTRICT.
Douglas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except Powell and Rehnquist, JJ., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case involves eight defendants who were convicted in a Florida municipal court of violating a Jacksonville, Florida, vagrancy ordinance.*fn1 Their convictions
were affirmed by the Florida Circuit Court in a consolidated appeal, and their petition for certiorari was denied by the District Court of Appeal on the authority of Johnson v. State, 202 So. 2d 852.*fn2 The case is
here on a petition for certiorari, which we granted. 403 U.S. 917. For reasons which will appear, we reverse.
At issue are five consolidated cases. Margaret Papachristou, Betty Calloway, Eugene Eddie Melton, and Leonard Johnson were all arrested early on a Sunday morning, and charged with vagrancy -- "prowling by auto."
Jimmy Lee Smith and Milton Henry were charged with vagrancy -- "vagabonds."
Henry Edward Heath and a co-defendant were arrested for vagrancy -- "loitering" and "common thief."
Thomas Owen Campbell was charged with vagrancy -- "common thief."
Hugh Brown was charged with vagrancy -- "disorderly loitering on street" and "disorderly conduct -- resisting arrest with violence."
The facts are stipulated. Papachristou and Calloway are white females. Melton and Johnson are black males. Papachristou was enrolled in a job-training program sponsored by the State Employment Service at Florida Junior College in Jacksonville. Calloway was a typing and shorthand teacher at a state mental institution located near Jacksonville. She was the owner of the automobile in which the four defendants were arrested. Melton was a Vietnam war veteran who had been released from the Navy after nine months in a veterans' hospital. On the date of his arrest he was a part-time computer helper while attending college as a full-time student in Jacksonville. Johnson was a tow-motor operator in a grocery chain warehouse and was a lifelong resident of Jacksonville.
At the time of their arrest the four of them were riding
in Calloway's car on the main thoroughfare in Jacksonville. They had left a restaurant owned by Johnson's uncle where they had eaten and were on their way to a nightclub. The arresting officers denied that the racial mixture in the car played any part in the decision to make the arrest. The arrest, they said, was made because the defendants had stopped near a used-car lot which had been broken into several times. There was, however, no evidence of any breaking and entering on the night in question.
Of these four charged with "prowling by auto" none had been previously arrested except Papachristou who had once been convicted of a municipal offense.
Jimmy Lee Smith and Milton Henry (who is not a petitioner) were arrested between 9 and 10 a. m. on a weekday in downtown Jacksonville, while waiting for a friend who was to lend them a car so they could apply for a job at a produce company. Smith was a part-time produce worker and part-time organizer for a Negro political group. He had a common-law wife and three children supported by him and his wife. He had been arrested several times but convicted only once. Smith's companion, Henry, was an 18-year-old high school student with no previous record of arrest.
This morning it was cold, and Smith had no jacket, so they went briefly into a dry cleaning shop to wait, but left when requested to do so. They thereafter walked back and forth two or three times over a two-block stretch looking for their friend. The store owners, who apparently were wary of Smith and his companion, summoned two police officers who searched the men and found neither had a weapon. But they were arrested because the officers said they had no identification and because the officers did not believe their story.
Heath and a co-defendant were arrested for "loitering" and for "common thief." Both were residents of Jacksonville, Heath having ...