NO CRIME: Asking for money is protected, including from motorists, a federal judge has ruled

The ACLU has won another lawsuit against an anti-panhandling ordinance, this time in Rogers.

Federal Judge Timothy Brooks ruled Monday that the city’s second attempt to pass a legal anti-begging law was also unconstitutional when it banned “approaching” vehicles for any reason.

Advertisement

The judge rejected the city’s argument that the ordinance was about traffic safety. It regulates only pedestrians, not drivers, and he noted it’s rooted in an effort to prohibit begging. The city produced no solid evidence of its benefits on safety, he said.

The judge noted that cities in other states had successfully defended ordinances that banned people from entering a roadway to solicit or distribute information, but didn’t prevent such activities by people who remained on a sidewalk. The Rogers ordinance wasn’t so narrowly drawn and the city didn’t offer specific studies in support, as other cities had.

Advertisement

Brooks wrote:

The ACLU has also challenged anti-panhandling ordinances in Hot Springs and Fort Smith. It also challenged a state anti-begging law. Said the ACLU:

“This ruling affirms once again that asking for help is not a crime,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “Local officials have an obligation to serve and protect everyone in their communities – rich and poor. We’re pleased that these unconstitutional restrictions have been struck down, and will continue to defend the right of every Arkansan to speak their mind or ask for help.”

It quoted Brooks’ comment that the ordinance “would cut a wide and destructive swath through the First Amendment rights of not only panhandlers, but also leafleteers, political activists, and many others who choose to engage in protected speech on the streets of Rogers.”

Advertisement

Here’s Brooks’ full opinion.