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Fewer than two dozen people tried for nearly half of Spokane’s sit-and-lie cases

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(The Center Square) – Clay Anthony Sanford and Mercedes Alexandra Finley are currently detained by Spokane County for a variety of crimes. Sanford is booked for second-degree vehicle prowling, third-degree theft and third-degree malicious mischief. Finley is facing possible charges for two counts of third-degree theft, second-degree theft and knowingly possessing a controlled substance.

Both are also among the 23 repeat offenders who have been charged since October 2022 for violating the city’s “sit-and-lie” ordinance that prohibits sitting on public sidewalks in certain parts of Spokane between 6 a.m. and midnight.

The “sit-and-lie” ordinance was originally enacted in 2013 but put on hold by the city following the state Supreme Court’s 2018 Martin v. City of Boise court decision that cities cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances if they do not have enough homeless shelter beds available for their homeless population.

However, some business owners have previously told The Center Square they’re still grappling with homeless camping on their property.

According to records obtained by The Center Square, there were 194 arrests made by Spokane Police between October 2022 and January 2024 for violating the ordinance. Of those, the city prosecutor’s office filed 125 criminal cases, a 64% prosecutorial rate.

Of those 125 cases, the 23 repeat offenders, or 26% of all defendants, made up 59 of the cases, or 47% of all cases. In one instance, a defendant was charged six separate times for violating the city’s sit-and-lie ordinance.

If those charged were all part of the entire county’s homeless community, they would constitute just 4% of the total population of 2,390 as of the last annual point in time count. The average number of offenses for a repeat offender was 2.6. Both Sanford and Finley were charged twice for violating sit-and-lie.

Violations of sit and lie ordinances are charged through the city’s Municipal Community Court as a misdemeanor punishable up to maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.