Court Declares Arkansas Law Banning Begging Unconstitutional
LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — The U.S. District Court in Little Rock ruled that a law banning begging was unconstitutional on Tuesday (Nov. 22).
The American Civil Liberties Union challenged a loitering law that prohibited people from asking for money, food or charity acts at any time or place, according to a press release. The ACLU argued that the law unconstitutionally criminalized speech that should be protected by the First Amendment.
The ACLU filed the case on behalf of Michael Rodgers, who is a disabled veteran, and Glynn Dilbeck, who is homeless. Rodgers was arrested and fined when he held up a sign asking for money to help pay for his living expenses. Dilbeck is also facing criminal proceedings after he held up a sign asking for money to cover his daughter’s medical bills.
However on Tuesday, the court agreed with the ACLU’s challenge, which will prevent law enforcement officers from arresting or issuing citations to people who are begging in the future.
“This law defied the letter and spirit of the Constitution by singling out this particular speech and making it a crime to be poor and ask for help,” said Holly Dickson, Arkansas ACLU legal director. “We are relived that those who are down on their luck should no longer face prosecution, jail and fines simply for asking for help.”