Judge rules panhandling law violates Constitution

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

A federal judge in Grand Rapids sways 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.

The Associated Press left a message Monday seeking comment from the Grand Rapids city attorney's office.


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