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Illinois’ panhandling law violates First Amendment

Friday, Jan 22, 2021

* 625 ILCS 5/11-1006(c)

No person shall stand on a highway for the purpose of soliciting contributions from the occupant of any vehicle except within a municipality when expressly permitted by municipal ordinance. The local municipality, city, village, or other local governmental entity in which the solicitation takes place shall determine by ordinance where and when solicitations may take place based on the safety of the solicitors and the safety of motorists. The decision shall also take into account the orderly flow of traffic and may not allow interference with the operation of official traffic control devices. The soliciting agency shall be:

    1. registered with the Attorney General as a charitable organization as provided by “An Act to regulate solicitation and collection of funds for charitable purposes, providing for violations thereof, and making an appropriation therefor”, approved July 26, 1963, as amended;
    2. engaged in a Statewide fund raising activity; and
    3. liable for any injuries to any person or property during the solicitation which is causally related to an act of ordinary negligence of the soliciting agent.

* Amanda Vinicky

A federal judge has permanently banned Illinois’ panhandling law from being enforced on the basis the statute violates the First Amendment. The case was part of a yearlong effort by advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) to eliminate such laws.

But at least one Chicago alderman said the city wants a new plan to help curtail the aggressive begging that began after Chicago revoked its panhandling ordinance in late 2018.

In the case that resulted in the federal order issued Jan. 11, CCH attorney Diane O’Connell said the plaintiffs — a pair of homeless men, Michael Dumiak and Christopher Simmons — had been ticketed multiple times by Downers Grove police for soliciting for money when suburban homeless shelters were out of space. […]

In a federal decision handed down last week, Judge Robert Gettleman agreed, issuing a permanent injunction based on the finding that Illinois’ law is “a content-based restriction on the freedom of speech that is not justified by any compelling interest and that the provision violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutional on its face under clearly established law.”

The order is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 2:38 pm:

    Systems that produce panhandlers are suspect?


  2. - TheInvisibleMan - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 2:43 pm:

    Interesting. I’m wondering what this decision means for local ordinances of the same.


  3. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 2:54 pm:

    The law should be rewritten to prohibit harassing panhandlers. I once had someone follow me between two train cars and corner me begging for money.


  4. - don the legend - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 2:54 pm:

    Watch for an over reaction her in Illinois with the filing of a stand your ground law.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 2:56 pm:

    ===what this decision means for===

    Um, they’re done.


  6. - Kathy Powers - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 2:59 pm:

    Jim Gardiner won’t like this.


  7. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:04 pm:

    It’s easier for governments to ban begging than it is to address the root causes of poverty. I see people standing at highway exit ramps and intersections holding signs every where and every day. We have a major poverty problem in this country and we can’t sweep it away into the shadows. It’s real,
    It’s complex and it hurts all of us. Ignoring it isn’t working.


  8. - fs - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:07 pm:

    == The law should be rewritten to prohibit harassing panhandlers. I once had someone follow me between two train cars and corner me begging for money.==

    I haven’t read this decision, but my guess is any such “rewrite” of an harassment law would need to cover any and all solicitation and speech in a public space, not just a specific kind (panhandling). Good luck threading the needle of any law like that, and political activism/campaigning.


  9. - Downstate Illinois - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:08 pm:

    Oh there are compelling interests, fraud being a major one. It’s amazing the nice vehicles some of our local panhandlers drive off in.


  10. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:10 pm:

    === It’s amazing the nice vehicles some of our local panhandlers drive off in.===

    When did you last see that or is this one of those “Downstate She-Caw-Go” legends?


  11. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:12 pm:

    === It’s amazing the nice vehicles some of our local panhandlers drive off in.===

    Man.

    After that Daley parking meter fiasco, where do all the homeless that reside in tents under the underpasses park those sweet cars? Is there a lot? Valet?


  12. - Levois J - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:25 pm:

    Wow! Who’d have thought that panhandling constitutes free speech or free expression.


  13. - Incandenza - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:26 pm:

    It’s difficult to think of policies less Christian or more cruel than criminalizing the homeless asking for money after annihilating any viable social safety net


  14. - Montrose - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:28 pm:

    To 47th’s point, between Hopkins and Gardiner, we have some Alderman that think the solution to homelessness is hiding and criminalizing it. God forbid we focus on providing them the housing they need.

    https://blockclubchicago.org/2021/01/22/alderman-praises-his-gardiners-angels-volunteers-for-tossing-blankets-food-belonging-to-man-experiencing-homelessness/


  15. - RNUG - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:34 pm:

    == Um, they’re done. ==

    I know the Springfield ordinances have been problematic, but I think the aggressive panhandling one might have a chance to survive. It’s been through the courts before …


  16. - Duffy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:35 pm:

    ==content-based restriction on the freedom of speech==

    Is lobbying regulation a content based restriction on speech?


  17. - Notorious RBG - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:36 pm:

    —==content-based restriction on the freedom of speech==

    Is lobbying regulation a content based restriction on speech?—

    Yes. So are limitations on political donations.


  18. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:44 pm:

    I don’t agree with the ruling.

    The state should be able to regulate things that interfere with traffic and apply common sense restrictions on speech on public property, which limitations on roadside panhandling absolutely do.

    If you follow the 1st Amendment interpretation of this ruling then how does the state get away with continuing regulating political signs placed on public property or in a roadway’s median?


  19. - JoanP - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:45 pm:

    Frankly, the homeless panhandlers are a lot less annoying than the kids soliciting for “charities” on Michigan Avenue.


  20. - Amalia - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:55 pm:

    once upon a time, the City of Chicago had enough beds for the homeless population at the time. some did not want to go inside under shelter conditions so not all were in a safe inside situation. the numbers have grown since then and the services have not, nor has the willingness by some to use services. that said, it is scary when people go beyond a polite ask, whether it is a homeless person, or anyone else asking for something when they are anonymous to you. there has to be some kind of middle ground on this particular issue. Meanwhile, work to help people in need.


  21. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:56 pm:

    ===I haven’t read this decision, but my guess is any such “rewrite” of an harassment law would need to cover any and all solicitation and speech in a public space, not just a specific kind (panhandling). Good luck threading the needle of any law like that, and political activism/campaigning.===

    I don’t think panhandling is political speech as opposed to commercial speech, which is more easily regulated. But fine, people can’t continue to solicit you for any commercial reason in public after you have told the solicitor you’re not interested. It is narrowly tailor to advance the compelling government interest of people not being pestered by solicitors in public.


  22. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:56 pm:

    And I don’t say this as some totally heartless monster who hates homeless people. I give money to homeless people I pass on the sidewalk fairly often. I firmly believe that those who give to the poor are lending to the Lord.

    But roadside panhandling is more dangerous than just a sidewalk panhandler with more risks to life and property and there are good reasons for this law to exist. If it needs changing, the place to change this law is in the General Assembly and not through the whims of an activist federal judge whose been on senior status for ten years.


  23. - Tax man cometh - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 3:56 pm:

    === It’s amazing the nice vehicles some of our local panhandlers drive off in.===

    When did you last see that or is this one of those “Downstate She-Caw-Go” legends?

    Call Jenni can give you an example where after he died the family was there look I g for his brand new pickup…no lie


  24. - City Guy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 4:02 pm:

    I do not like panhandling, but understand why the court ruled against the law because it does single out people asking for money for themselves. My read is the law did not ban a charity from asking for donations in the roadway, i.e., Firemen charity with their boots.

    To me the law could be legal if it just banned approaching people in vehicles on highways due to the public safety issue. (This assumes you can show it is a safety issue.) Exception can be made for people requesting medical or vehicle emergency assistance. I don’t want anyone in the roadway. I don’t care if they are selling items like roses, handing out religious tracts, or asking for donations for a charity. I think it is dangerous to have people walking up to and around vehicles on an active highway.


  25. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 4:06 pm:

    === Call Jenni===

    Now do all the homeless living under bridges in tents.

    It’s not a conspiracy against you.


  26. - City Guy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 4:06 pm:

    It is worth noting that panhandlers are often not homeless and only a small percent of the homeless panhandle.


  27. - Montrose - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 4:09 pm:

    _- City Guy - Friday, Jan 22, 21 @ 4:06 pm:

    It is worth noting that panhandlers are often not homeless and only a small percent of the homeless panhandle.-

    Please share the data that backs those statements up. Thank.


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