Court Strikes Down Michigan Panhandler Law

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A federal judge in Grand Rapids says a Michigan law banning panhandling in public places "on its face" violates the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker made his ruling Friday in a civil suit by two Grand Rapids men arrested in 2011 for begging.

James Speet and Ernest Sims were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU says the city enforced the law 399 times between Jan. 1, 2008 and May 24, 2011.

Speet receives food stamps. He holds up signs seeking "work or help."

Sims receives food stamps and $260 per month. He pleaded guilty to panhandling after asking for spare change.

City Attorney Catherine Mish says her office will analyze Jonker's opinion before deciding whether to appeal.


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