ACLU of Michigan challenges state panhandling law
The ACLU of Michigan has filed a federal lawsuit against the state and the city of Grand Rapids challenging the constitutionality of a state law that forbids panhandling in public places.
Michigan law establishes the crime of being a “disorderly person” and part of the definition of that crime is that someone is being disorderly when they are “found begging in a public place.”
The city of Grand Rapids has prosecuted for this crime 399 times since 2008, according to documents released to the ACLU pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request. In a press release the ACLU said:
“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.” …
“Jail time is a harsh price to pay for being poor,” said Aukerman. “The ACLU is not opposed to laws that protect citizens from threats, intimidation and harassment. However, throwing people in jail because they are poor or homeless is not only wrong, it’s illegal.”
You can read the full legal complaint here.