Judge shoots down Sacramento ordinance against ‘aggressive panhandling’; allows it near ATMs

Judge shoots down Sacramento ordinance against ‘aggressive panhandling’; allows it near ATMs
Homeless in San Francisco: The city has a huge homeless population (Image: KPIX video screen grab)

[Ed. – It sounds like there’s been a problem with panhandlers staking out ATMs. But it also sounds like the ordinance has a more generalized intent, or at least a more generalized effect.  Judge says it infringes on First Amendment rights.  Hard to win with this one.]

I’ve written a bunch of stories about the homeless problem in cities on the west coast. So when I first saw this story my thought was, ‘Oh, boy, this sounds like a terrible idea.’ But I have to confess that on second thought I’m not so sure. Maybe the judge got this one right.

A federal judge ordered an immediate halt Thursday to Sacramento’s ordinance against aggressive panhandling, saying “this is a direct First Amendment case” involving the free speech rights of individuals seeking donations from passersby. …

[…]

[I]f we’re just talking about someone sitting near an ATM at a grocery store exit with a sign, I’m not sure we should criminalize that absent other factors. Yes, the speech in question is begging and yes that’s a nuisance to most people, but the right to speak (or hold a sign) in a public space, absent other threatening or aggressive behavior, ought not to be criminalized.

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