Virginia v. Hicks, 539 U.S. 113, 5 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 113 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

other, or any portion or area thereof, after having been forbidden to do so, either orally or in writing, by the owner, lessee, custodian or other person lawfully in charge thereof . . . he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor."


Respondent Kevin Hicks, a nonresident of Whitcomb Court, has been convicted on two prior occasions of trespassing there and once of damaging property there. Those convictions are not at issue in this case. While the property-damage charge was pending, the RRHA gave Hicks written notice barring him from Whitcomb Court, and Hicks signed this notice in the presence of a police officer.1 Twice after receiving this notice Hicks asked for permission to return; twice the Whitcomb Court housing manager said "no." That did not stop Hicks; in January 1999 he again trespassed at Whitcomb Court and was arrested and convicted under 18.2-119.

At trial, Hicks maintained that the RRHA's policy limiting access to Whitcomb Court was both unconstitutionally over-broad and void for vagueness. On appeal of his conviction, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of Virginia initially rejected Hicks' contentions, but the en banc Court of Appeals reversed. That court held that the streets of Whitcomb Court were a "traditional public forum," notwithstanding the city ordinance declaring them closed, and vacated Hicks' conviction on the ground that RRHA's policy violated the First Amendment. 36 Va. App. 49, 56, 548 S. E. 2d 249, 253 (2001). The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the en

1 The letter stated, in part: " 'This letter serves to inform you that effective immediately you are not welcome on Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority's Whitcomb Court or any Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority property. This letter is an official notice informing you that you are not to trespass on RRHA property. If you are seen or caught on the premises, you will be subject to arrest by the police.' " 264 Va. 48, 53, 563 S. E. 2d 674, 677 (2002).


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