|GRPD Will No Longer Enforce Panhandling Statute|
The City of Grand Rapids announced today that the Police Department will no longer enforce a Michigan panhandling statute as the result of a Federal Court case decision. The Federal Court held that begging and panhandling qualifies as free speech protected by the First Amendment.
Here's a look at exactly what the City Attorney's office released:
On Friday, August 24, 2012, the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan issued an opinion in the case of James Speet and Ernest Sims v Bill Schuette and City of Grand Rapids, et. al., Case No. 1:11-CV-972.
In this lawsuit, plaintiffs James Speet and Ernest Sims challenged the Michigan penal statute that makes begging / panhandling in a public place a criminal misdemeanor offense. MCL 750.167(1)(h). Because there is currently no City of Grand Rapids ordinance that prohibits begging / panhandling, the Grand Rapids Police Department has enforced only Michigan law regarding this issue.
In its Friday ruling, the Federal Court held that begging / panhandling qualifies as speech protected by the First Amendment, and held that the Michigan penal statute is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
The City, in consultation with the Michigan Attorney Generalís office, will analyze the Federal Courtís opinion and determine whether the court decision will be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
As a result of the Federal Courtís ruling, the Grand Rapids Police Department will no longer enforce the Michigan statute regarding begging / panhandling in a public place, pending future developments in this case.
The Grand Rapids Police Department will continue to enforce other State laws and City ordinances which apply to particular situations, such as assault, obstructing traffic, and trespassing.
Published August 27, 2012
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