panhandling

Law
3:12 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

ACLU warns 84 Michigan cities and towns to change their local panhandling laws

Ernest Sims was one of the plaintiffs in the case. He was ticketed and arrested in Grand Rapids, Michigan for panhandling.
ACLU-Michigan

Dozens of Michigan communities are getting letters from the American Civil Liberties Union warning them that their anti-panhandling laws may be unconstitutional.

Over the summer, a federal appeals court ruled Michigan’s anti-panhandling law was unconstitutional. 

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Law
4:28 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Panhandlers get $6,800 to settle free speech lawsuit with City of Grand Rapids

A federal appeals panel ruled Michigan's old law against panhandling unconstitutional in August 2013.
Brian D. Hawkins Creative Commons

Two men who successfully fought the state's panhandling law after being arrested in Grand Rapids in 2011 for panhandling will each get more than $6,000 as part of a $48,000 settlement with the city.

Judges on the 6th circuit court of appeals called the state law prohibiting panhandling unconstitutional, because it was overly broad and infringed on the right to free speech.

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Politics & Government
7:45 am
Thu August 15, 2013

In this morning's news: Michigan roads, panhandling laws, and the Wayne County jail

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

State Senate delays road legislation

Leaders in the state Senate say that plans to fix Michigan roads aren't likely to appear on the November ballot.  Governor Rick Snyder has pushed to raise registration fees and gas taxes to pay for road repairs.  Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports that lawmakers are instead favoring an increased sales tax to raise the money. 

Michigan's panhandling ban overturned

Yesterday a federal appeals court struck down Michigan's ban on panhandling. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in 2011 on behalf of two Grand Rapids men who had been repeatedly penalized for begging in public.  Michigan Radio's Mark Brush reports the court ruled that "begging, panhandling, or asking for money in a public place is protected as free speech under the First Amendment."

Fate of new Wayne County jail debated

Wayne County officials are considering scrapping a half-finished jail construction.  Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports that Governor Rick Snyder is pushing for the county to stop the project, sell the property, and lease an older state-owned jail facility.  The Detroit Free Press also reports that the Wayne County Building Authority is considering firing the project manager who authorized "more than $42 million in major changes without the needed written approval of the Building Authority."

Law
4:26 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Michigan's old law banning panhandling in public found unconstitutional

Ernest Sims was one of the plaintiffs in the case. He was ticketed and arrested in Grand Rapids, Michigan for panhandling.
ACLU of Michigan

Under a decades-old Michigan law, "a person found begging in a public place" is considered a "disorderly person" and can be arrested and prosecuted as such.

Today, a federal appeals court struck down that law saying that begging, panhandling, or asking for money in a public place is protected as free speech under the First Amendment.

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Law
5:17 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Panhandler who won free speech case arrested anyway, for panhandling

A federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled a Michigan law banning panhandling is unconstitutional.
Brian D. Hawkins Creative Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is urging local governments to review their laws regarding panhandling in light of a federal ruling handed down last week.

A federal judge ruled a state law banning panhandling in public places is unconstitutional.

But ACLU staff attorney Miriam Aukerman says one of her clients in that case, James Speet, was arrested for panhandling in Kentwood anyway.

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Law
10:19 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Judge says Michigan's panhandling law violates the Constitution

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

The judge made the ruling Friday in a civil suit by two Grand Rapids men arrested last year for begging.

The men were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A Grand Rapids City Attorney says her office will analyze the judge's opinion before deciding whether to appeal.

Arts & Culture
3:42 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Facebook community split over personal panhandler policies

Panhandlers: To donate, or not to donate?
The Library of Congress Flickr Creative Commons

New posters in downtown Ann Arbor businesses will ask visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers.  The effort by the mayor's office and businesses asks people to give money to local resources for the homeless instead. 

Yesterday, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community:

“What is your policy on giving to panhandlers?”

Readers jumped at the chance to share their stories and “personal policies.”

Charles–I used to run the old laundry mat on Broadway & Maiden Lane in Ann Arbor & used to have to deal with panhandlers, daily! After awhile you can figure out who really needs some help and those who were just mooching a free ride. $5 was the limit I would give to those who were not just gonna drink it away, but, you never know, do you!

Angie- We were dining in A2 a couple of years ago, and my daughter was being nice and felt sorry for a beggar. When we left the restaurant, she offered him some take-out in a container and he got all annoyed at her and said "I dont want that" >:(

Tom- If someone asks me politely, I'll give them whatever change I have in my pocket-- sometimes it's more than a dollar; sometimes it's 10 cents. But I won't open my wallet in front of a panhandler. My policy prevents me from having to make a decision each time I'm asked. I've never had anyone be anything but grateful.

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Business
8:39 am
Thu June 14, 2012

New campaign asks Ann Arbor visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers

beta-gibbs.pcsb.org

New posters in downtown Ann Arbor businesses will ask visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers.  The effort by the mayor's office and businesses asks people to give money to local resources for the homeless instead. 

The posters say panhandlers often use the money to buy drugs and alcohol.  This concerns some local homeless residents.  They say this isn't always the case.  

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Seeking Change
11:01 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Putting an end to panhandling

Brian D. Hawkins Creative Commons

You’ve probably seen people sitting or standing on highway exit ramps asking for money from drivers. Duane Zook, a community service trooper with the Michigan State Police, knows dozens of these panhandlers by first name and he’s decided to try to get them help.

As part of our weekly series, "Seeking Change," Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Zook.

Politics
4:45 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Michigan ACLU fights anti-begging law

Annie Green Springs Flickr

Michigan’s law against peaceful begging in public was challenged in federal court this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman says peaceful begging is protected speech under the First  Amendment.

“Begging is not a crime, asking for help is not a crime, being poor is not a crime. There’s been so much economic turmoil, and penalizing poor people because they need help is wrong….and unconstitutional.”

James Speet says he’s been arrested at least eight times in the Grand Rapids area for holding up a sign that reads “Need job… God bless.”

Speet, who’s often homeless, says he never hassles people.

“I don’t approach anybody unless I’m called over to them, by them. That way there’s never no people feeling like I’m being aggressive toward them, or anything like that. I let them come to me.”

The ACLU of Michigan says the Grand Rapids Police Department has arrested nearly 400 people for peaceful begging since 2008.

Politics
2:09 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

ACLU files suit against Michigan's anti-begging law

State law bans "begging in a public place."
Annie Green Springs Flickr

The Michigan ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court today asking a judge to nullify a state law that prohibits panhandling in public places.

The lawsuit names Michigan state attorney general Bill Schuette, the Grand Rapids Chief of Police Kevin Belk, and Grand Rapids police officer Gregory Bauer as defendants.

The state law in question defines a "disorderly person" in part as a person who is "found begging in a public place."

ACLU of Michigan representatives say between January 1, 2008 and May 24, 2011, the Grand Rapids Police Department "produced 399 incident reports of individuals prosecuted under the unconstitutional state statute" - prosecutions that ACLU representatives say say led to 1,641 days in jail and $60,000 in expenses to taxpayers.

More from the ACLU of Michigan's press release:

“Anti-begging laws that punish that most vulnerable segment of our society are not only harsh, they are unconstitutional,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. "Removing the reminders of poverty from our sight is not the answer to Michigan’s economic woes. We need laws and practices that provide compassionate solutions for our growing homeless population.”

ACLU lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Grand Rapids residents, James Speet and Ernest Sims.

The lawsuit indicates the two have been "repeatedly arrested or ticketed by police for violating the state’s blanket ban on begging in public."

“I see people holding up signs throughout the city advertising restaurants or protesting and they don’t get arrested or ticketed,” said Speet. “I don’t understand why my sign is any different just because I’m homeless and looking for a job.”