Judge enjoins new anti-begging law as unconstitutional | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Judge enjoins new anti-begging law as unconstitutional

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 9:19 AM

PANHANDLING: Efforts to stop such solicitations led to Judge Wilson's ruling. - KARK
  • KARK
  • PANHANDLING: Efforts to stop such solicitations led to Judge Wilson's ruling.
Another win for the ACLU. A federal judge has blocked a new law aimed at restricting panhandling. The law was enjoined on the ground that it infringed on First Amendment speech rights.

According to an ACLU of Arkansas news release:

In the ruling, Judge Billy Roy Wilson called the law “plainly unconstitutional” and said that the state had failed to “satisfy the rigorous constitutional standards that apply when government attempts to regulate expression based on its content.”

“This ruling is a victory for all Arkansans who value their First Amendment rights,” said ACLU of Arkansas executive director Rita Sklar. “Being poor is not a crime, and asking for help shouldn’t land you in jail. The ACLU of Arkansas will continue to defend the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, especially on behalf of vulnerable people to whom its protections are too often denied.” 
The ACLU sued on behalf of two Arkansas residents, Michael Rogers and Glynn Dilbeck, who feared arrest as they had been arrested before for soliciting money. The law bans standing or remaining “for the purpose of asking for anything as a charity or a gift” in “an aggressive or threatening manner.”

The ACLU said the law was overly broad and poorly defined. Courts have ruled the First Amendment doesn't allow speech restrictions based on content of the message.

The ACLU successfully challenged the old state law in 2016. The 2017 legislature tried again to effectively outlaw begging.

Here's the judge's order.

It resonates in the context of far more than an Arkansas anti-begging statute. Wilson wrote:

In the abstract, all of us love the First Amendment; but not so much when someone
makes a statement that we consider obnoxious. Yet the purpose of the First Amendment is to protect unpopular views, written or spoken. Our Founders realized full well that the rights protected by the Bill of Rights are antimajoritarian – they were keenly aware of the persecution of minorities by the impassioned majority after the then-recent French Revolution
The attorney general defended the statute and said the plaintiffs had no standing because the law didn't prevent begging as they do on roadways unless they harass or threaten. Said Wilson:

I have no doubt that holding a sign asking for gifts or charity could “create a traffic hazard or impediment.” For example, Mr. Dilbeck testified that there have been times when a car in a line of traffic would slow down to give him something. And, to a lesser-degree of
certainty, that it is possible that holding a sign asking for gifts or charity might cause others to feel threatened, harassed, or alarmed.  begging in Arkansas when he passes through to visit his daughter in Missouri. In fact, he testified he would have even begged on the day of the hearing, but did not out of fear of being cited under Section 5-71-213(a)(3). Mr. Rodgers testified that he continues to beg, but hides his sign from the police and avoids certain areas to keep from being cited under Section 5-71- 213(a)(3). This chilling effect is the actual injury that gives Plaintiffs standing.
Will the state appeal? A statement from Rutledge's office:

"The Attorney General respectfully disagrees with the District Court's decision and is considering her options."

Tags: , , ,


Favorite

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Kavanaugh reporting recovers prep school memories; brings credibility into focus

    The Brett Kavanaugh nomination is producing reporting on the culture of Washington prep school life in his day — a time of heavy drinking long before Me, Too. Example: The Washington Post today. But it also spurred accounts of Kavanaugh's lack of truthfulness on other matters.
    • Sep 20, 2018
  • Clarke Tucker punches an absent French Hill in TV 'debate'

    Democratic state Rep. Clarke Tucker took full advantage of Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill's refusal to participate in a TV debate on Channel 7 last night with a series of jabs at Hill on policy issues and for avoiding debate.
    • Sep 20, 2018
  • Moving deck chairs

    Governor Hutchinson has promised to soon reveal his ideas for "transforming government" — a reorganization aimed at reducing the number of departments that report to the governor.
    • Sep 20, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Trump's strangulation of Obamacare

    If he can't kill it outright, Donald Trump will do all he can to cripple Obamacare. Vox has detailed reporting on deep cuts in federal spending that support nonprofit agencies that help people sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
    • Sep 18, 2017
  • Tom Cotton's influence on Trump's new security chief

    U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is getting credit for pushing President Donald Trump to select Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, Politico reports.
    • Feb 21, 2017

Slideshows

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation