AskDefine | Define loitering

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of loiter

Extensive Definition

Loitering ( is an intransitive verb meaning to stand idly, to stop numerous times, or to delay and procrastinate.

Prohibition and History

Loitering may be prohibited by local governments in several countries. Loitering prohibitions are particularly common in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation, although they are used throughout the world.
Loitering laws are often tracked back to late 15th century English common law.

Legal issues

Local areas vary on the degree to which police are empowered to arrest loiterers; limitations on their power are sometimes made over concerns regarding racial profiling.
In Jamaica the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal regarding a case of loitering near a playground by a man convicted of child abuse. (see R. v. Heywood).
However in Minneapolis for example, loitering on public property is not actually a crime.
In 1992, the City of Chicago adopted an anti-loitering law (Chicago Municipal Code 8-4-015 (1992)) aimed at restricting gang related activity, especially violent crime and drug trafficking. The law, which defined loitering as "remain(ing) in any one place with no apparent purpose", gave police officers a right to disperse such persons and in case of disobedience, provided for a punishment by fine, imprisonment and/or community service. It was struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States (Chicago v. Morales, ) as unacceptably vague and not giving citizens clear guidelines on what the acceptable conduct was. In 2000, the city adopted a revised version of the ordinance, eliminating the unconstitutional elements. Loitering was then defined as "''remaining in any one place under circumstances that would warrant a reasonable person to believe that the purpose or effect of that behavior is to enable a criminal street gang to establish control over identifiable areas, to intimidate others from entering those areas, or to conceal illegal activities''"
In Portland, Oregon a wide range of measures have been enacted to tackle loitering and related issues.

Discriminatory history

Although loitering laws date back to 16th Century England, in the United States they have long been used for expressly racist purposes. After the Civil War they were used in conjunction with vagrancy laws to reinforce a state of quasi-slavery for African Americans in the South. During the Civil Rights era, they were used to break up protests (by arresting the protesters), and were used on at least one occasion to prevent court testimony by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who was arrested for loitering in the courthouse).
For UK issues relating to this matter see Sus law.


loitering in Hebrew: שוטטות
loitering in Dutch: Hangjongeren
loitering in Dutch Low Saxon: Bungels
loitering in Simple English: Loitering

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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