Escambia County's panhandling ordinance
Does Escambia County's controversial panhandling ordinance unconstitutionally prohibit free speech?
challenged as unconstitutional
The ACLU of Northwest Florida is helping to represent Mark Brune, 49, a homeless man who was arrested Feb. 1 on a charge of violating the ordinance.
The ordinance prohibits soliciting and panhandling under certain circumstances, including after sunset and before sunrise, at bus stops, within 20 feet of ATMs and bank entrances or from a driver in traffic. It does not ban someone from holding a sign that asks for money as long the person does not make a request to a specific person.
Brune was arrested when an Escambia County deputy saw him step from the median to get money from a motorist. He was holding a sign that read: “Stranded Broke Hungry Please Help God Bless.”
"Escambia County's ordinance is a clear case of government explicitly banning a particular kind of expression," attorney Benjamin Stevenson said. "The First Amendment prohibits exactly this kind of government restriction to our rights. Holding a sign in public is free speech, not a crime."
Read the Pensacola News-Journal report here.