Friday, November 15, 2013

Bouie v. City of Columbia case brief

Bouie v. City of Columbia case brief summary
378 U.S. 347 (1964)

Petitioner civil rights demonstrators sought review of a decision by the Supreme Court of South Carolina, which affirmed their convictions for criminal trespass in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 16-386 (1960) in connection with a peaceful sit-in demonstration. They were charged with the crime for their failure to leave a store after being asked to do so.

Petitioner civil rights demonstrators entered a store during normal business hours and took seats in the store's restaurant section. An employee posted a no trespassing sign, the police arrested them, and they subsequently were convicted of criminal trespass under S.C. Code Ann. § 16-386 (1960).


  • The court reversed their convictions. 
  • The court held that § 16-386 failed to give them fair notice that it prohibited their contemplated conduct, and the court found that they were punished for conduct that was not criminal at the time they committed it in violation of their due process rights under U.S. Constitutional amendment XIV. 
  • The court found that § 16-386 prohibited only entry upon the lands of another after notice from the owner prohibiting such entry, not the different act of petitioners' remaining on the premises after they were asked to leave. 
  • The court held that petitioners did not violate § 16-386 as it was written because they received no notice before entering either the store or the restaurant department that they were not allowed to do so and, so far as § 16-386 was concerned, they were given not only no fair warning, but no warning that their conduct would violate the statute.

The court reversed the convictions of petitioner civil rights demonstrators for criminal trespass because their convictions violated their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The state statute under which they were convicted did not proscribe their conduct because it did not prohibit petitioners from remaining in a place of business, which they were free to enter, after they were asked to leave.

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