UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


Tim Donaldson


Homelessness in America has become an epidemic problem. Homeless encampments can be found in public areas of almost every major city, and the resulting accumulation of waste, debris, and other items in those areas presents public health and safety concerns. Many cities have responded to those challenges by periodically clearing or cleaning campsites and must determine, often among tons of materials, what may be collected and discarded. This article reviews the constitutional treatment of abandoned property versus unabandoned property. It proposes guidelines for determining when unattended property left in public areas by homeless persons may be considered abandoned and beyond the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures.