Cincinnati anti-panhandling ordinances ruled unconstitutional

Tom Boland (
Wed, 27 May 1998 12:48:35 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  Wednesday, May 27, 1998 - Associated Press


CINCINNATI (AP) -- A federal magistrate has thrown out two anti-panhandling
ordinances that had limited when and were begging is allowed.

The City Council approved the limitations in May 1995 because of concerns
about public safety. But the ordinances had not been enforced, pending
resolution of the constitutional questions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jack Sherman ruled the ordinances unconstitutional

``The magistrate basically said that the homeless and poor are as deserving
of the protection of the constitutional protection of free speech as are
people in business suits and in corporations,'' said Scott Greenwood, a
lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

The lawsuit was filed in 1995 by the ACLU on behalf of three homeless
people and the Homeless Hotline, a nonprofit group that solicits
contributions for the homeless in Cincinnati.

Other laws making it a crime to panhandle aggressively, to touch or grab
passersby, or refuse to take ``no'' for an answer were not affected by the

One of the ordinances struck down would have made it a crime, with some
exceptions, to sit or lie down on downtown sidewalks or the city's skywalk
between 7 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

The other one would have made it a crime to beg or panhandle within certain
distances of certain buildings, automatic teller machines, crosswalks and
anywhere after 8 p.m.

Sherman said that while the city has an interest in protecting its citizens
from unsafe, disruptive and coercive behavior, that interest is protected
by the ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling.

His ruling said that the time, place and manner restrictions were
unreasonable and arbitrary, and the ordinances failed to provide
alternative means by which the homeless and poor can legally request money
or food.

Complaints from downtown businesses, workers and visitors prompted a 1992
anti-begging law. It survived a court challenge, but police said it was
useless and council passed the stricter sidewalk and solicitation

Councilman Phil Heimlich, who sponsored those ordinances, said the city
should appeal the ruling. The full council would have to approve that.


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