Monday, April 14, 2003

Fourth Circuit finds First Amendment right to loiter on Virginia bridges

In this opinion, the Fourth Circuit upheld a constitutional challenge to a Virginia criminal statute which prohibited loitering on bridges, Va. Code § 46.2-930. Specifically, the statute provides that "Pedestrians shall not loiter on any bridge on which the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner has posted signs prohibiting such action. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a traffic infraction." The Court reasoned that demonstrators could not have known that they were loiterers under the statute: "No reasonable person would know that protesting and loitering were one and the same activity and that an anti-loitering statute would attach criminal sanctions to the classic political expression undertaken by the Lytles. Therefore, Virginia Code § 46.2-930 cannot have been constitutionally applied to the plaintiffs."

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