We represent a 24-year-old man who is homeless and spent 33 days in jail simply for walking in a park. In May 2014, Jeff Pendleton was hauled off to jail for walking along a public foot path in the park adjacent to the Nashua public library.
Jeff was arrested for criminal trespass in violation of a verbal “no trespass” order he received a month earlier. This order banned him from the library and the adjacent park, including its walkways, green space, and benches. His bail was $100 but he did not have the money so he had to spend the next 33 days in jail. After his release, the ACLU-NH secured the dismissal of the criminal charge.
Parks are protected places under the First Amendment. They are places for the public—the poor and affluent alike—to congregate and enjoy. Jeff had every right to be in the walkway in that park. Moreover, the verbal “no trespass” order violated his due process rights because it denied him the opportunity to challenge the order.
By letter in early November 2014, the ACLU-NH sought civil relief for these constitutional violations. On March 13, 2015, the City of Nashua agreed to pay $15,000 to settle Jeff's claims.