Here is just a sampling of legal challenges to panhandling ordinances:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent letters to 84 municipalities across the state notifying them that anti-begging ordinances on their books are unconstitutional and should be repealed. The ordinances are nearly identical to the Michigan law struck down in August by the Court of Appeals for unconstitutionally preventing peaceful panhandling in all public places.
“Anti-begging laws that punish that most vulnerable segment of our society are not only harsh, they are unconstitutional,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. “No one should be thrown in jail or subjected to a fine for holding up a sign or simply asking for spare change. In the wake of the appeals court decision, we’re putting these cities and townships on notice that it’s time they repeal their unconstitutional ordinances. Our municipalities cannot and should not use the force of law to silence the voices of innocent people who rely on charity to survive.”
A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional an Arizona law that bans panhandling.… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
An Arizona law that makes it a crime to beg for money or food in public is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona against the city of Flagstaff, which has drawn national attention for its aggressive stance on panhandling by jailing some violators.
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, with the assistance of the law firm Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday against Hudson, challenging the town’s practice of detaining, harassing, threatening, dispersing and citing peaceful panhandlers. Hudson’s practice not only lacks compassion for the poor; it also violates the First Amendment.
The ACLU-NJ filed a lawsuit against the City of New Brunswick for two unconstitutional ordinances – one forbids panhandling and the other requires a permit to solicit philanthropic donations – that violate the First Amendment and in effect criminalize poverty. With pro bono attorneys from McCarter & English, LLP, the ACLU-NJ filed the suit on behalf of John Fleming, a New Brunswick man who has been cited several times and arrested for violating the ordinances, and on behalf of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness.
The lawsuit seeks an immediate and permanent end to the ordinances and requested the court schedule a prompt hearing.
“The inconvenience a passerby might experience from hearing a plea for money pales in comparison to the violation a homeless person experiences in losing an essential constitutional liberty,” said ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero. “Unfortunately, New Brunswick isn’t alone – not in the U.S., and not in New Jersey. The ACLU-NJ is committed to making sure towns in our state don’t use poverty as grounds to strip people of their rights.”