Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Anti-Panhandling Law In Detroit Garners Support from ACLU

Panhandlers who ask for change from people who are waiting in line for food, at an ATM or who act overly aggressive could be fined and face jail time under a new city ordinance set to go into effect (in Detroit) next month.

A panhandling ordinance was approved July 31 following a request from the Detroit Police Department. The city has lacked an anti-begging ordinance since 1996 when a Recorder's Court judge affirmed an earlier decision that struck down a one-sentence ordinance that said anyone who begs is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The city joins at least two Metro Detroit communities that have changed their anti-panhandling laws.

The new Detroit law is more specific, repealing the invalidated version and spelling out what a person can and can't do when asking for money. And it's gathered an unusual ally — the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. The ACLU sued the state last year over a longstanding statewide law that prohibits begging — which the ACLU says is overly broad and unconstitutional. A judge's ruling is pending.

"All over the country, courts have recognized that begging in a public place is generally protected by the First Amendment because it's a form of solicitation for charity," said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. "Detroit ought to be commended in taking steps to improve their city code when parts of it are either outdated or have fallen behind the times in terms of protecting constitutional rights."

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