As someone who works in downtown Grand Rapids, I have encountered my fair share of panhandlers over the last five years. Those who rely on the kindness of others for their survival have, apparently, been doing it illegally, though. Soon, though, that could all change.Late Friday, a federal judge struck down the Michigan state law that criminalized peaceful panhandling in all public places.

The lawsuit (which originated in September of last year) was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan against the state attorney general and the city of Grand Rapids, which enforced the law 399 times between January 1, 2008 and May 24, 2011.

The ACLU of Michigan had argued that the state’s anti-begging law is unconstitutional because peaceful panhandling is protected free speech under the First Amendment.


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