COURT: Begging a constitutional right

Washington— A federal appeals court has ruled Michigan’s Depression-era law that criminalizes begging is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court decision that said Grand Rapids police were wrong to arrest two homeless men in 2011 for asking for change. The court said between 2008 and 2011, there were 409 reports of incidents where police enforced this anti-begging ordinance, and 399 people were arrested or issued tickets for begging in Grand Rapids. Of those, 211 were sentenced to jail terms, the panel said.

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“Michigan’s interest in preventing fraud can be better served by a statute that, instead of directly prohibiting begging, is more narrowly tailored to the specific conduct, such as fraud, that Michigan seeks to prohibit,” Judge Boyce Martin, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter who reportedly is retiring at week’s end, wrote in an opinion joined by judges Jeffrey Sutton and John R. Adams, both appointees of President George W. Bush.

From The Detroit News:


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