Panhandling is protected by the Constitution,
A panhandling ordinance that prohibits solicitation of money at intersections and other locations is unconstitutional, an Oregon judge has ruled.
another judge rules
The judge found that the city of Medford's ordinance violated the Oregon Constitution, which prohibits passing any law restricting freedom of speech.
"I think it's important for government officials to understand that they cannot prohibit expression because they find it offensive," said David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. One of the ACLU's members filed the lawsuit.
The city will decide whether to rewrite the law to bring it in line with the judge's ruling or appeal the decision, said Police Chief Randy Schoen. In the meantime, officers already have been told to stop citing panhandlers in light of the judge's ruling.
"We're disappointed," said Schoen. "We were looking out for the majority of folks impacted by this."
Medford created the ordinance in January 2008 after receiving complaints from citizens about panhandlers at intersections and at freeway off-ramps. The police chief said Medford's efforts to ban panhandling received overwhelming support from citizens worried about safety concerns at intersections.
The judge did uphold a portion of the ordinance that prohibits aggressive panhandling, which the ACLU didn't oppose.
Read the Mail Tribune report here.