Appeals Court Rules Michigan Anti-Begging Law Unconstitutional

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Court-gavel-and-justiceGRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Begging is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, a federal court of appeals judge ruled Wednesday.

Grand Rapids men James Speet and Ernest Sims filed the initial lawsuit in 2012 against Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the City of Grand Rapids and several police officers, after they were arrested several times for panhandling in the city.

The Attorney General appealed the initial decision after the lower court sided with Speet and Sims, claiming that the city’s anti-begging statute protects residents from fraud and doesn’t violate freedom of speech rights in the First Amendment.

In an opinion released Wednesday, Federal Appeals Court Judge John R. Adams upholds the lower court decision, striking down the anti-begging law that has existed in Michigan since 1929.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled directly on this issue, but Judge Adams writes that they have upheld that “solicitation of ‘charitable contributions’ is protected speech.”  He said that the State of Michigan would need a statute that was narrower in scope, and agreed with Speet and Sims that begging is constitutionally protected free speech.




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  • promise

    It truely makes our state and city look really bad, being on the west coast and seeing alot of this behavior it inforiates me that its ok for ppl to beg for money and not have to pay taxes on it and make more than some folks make working every day of the week, just bad for our city and state..ppl need to stop giving to ppl that look totally able to go make a living, the honest way.

    • ben w

      Know what should infuriate you, the fact that you are mad at this. They have a right to ask for money, they are not scamming people. If I was to walk up to someone and ask them for a spare dollar do they have to say yes? Am i trying to convince them further to give me money? These beggers are not the ones who make the city look bad. The curruption, ghetto, close mindedness of this beautiful city makes it look bad. People make a decent living off panhandling. Some make alot of money. They are for the most part more accepting and generous too. It isn’t a official job, so why would they have to pay tax? I don’t pay tax at a garage sale is that not right either?

  • Scherzerfan

    Just because beggers try deperately to look pathetic standing out there in the hot sun or pouring rain dosn't mean I have to feel guilty and give them and dime. I pay taxes and give to the charities of my choice. If they do not wish to get their hand outs from there, well tuff turtles. I just hope they stay the heck out of my way while I'm driving home after my long day of working.