Monday, August 19, 2013

Panhandling Ruled Constitutional by Appeals Court

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Ohio and Michigan) upheld a lower court decision that found the Grand Rapids Police gave a ticket to two homeless people for asking for money.  The court ruled the statute that made it a crime to beg for money illegal.  The court found that this was an infringement on the free speech protections of the First Amendment.  The court found that the Supreme Court has never specifically ruled that an individual asking for money is engaged in expression, they did find that organizations were protected for soliciting charitable funds.  The court found that Michigan had the right to regulate soliciting funds.  It could not prohibit begging for money by criminal law.

The Detroit News has a nice summary of the ruling here.  The two individuals, James Speet and Ernest Sims, sued in federal court to dismiss the ticket.  Speet was holding a sign that said, "Cold and Hungry, God Bless." He pled guilty when the police issued his ticket, and was unable to pay the $198 fine.  

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