- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a disabled veteran and a homeless man challenging the constitutionality of an Arkansas law that prohibits panhandling for money or food.

The lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Michael Rodgers, a veteran convicted of loitering with intent to beg, and Glynn Dilbeck, a homeless man who’s been criminally cited for begging to help pay his daughter’s medical bills, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2era83I ).

According to the lawsuit, both men have peacefully held up signs asking passers-by for money. The sole defendant named in the lawsuit is the director of the Arkansas State Police. The lawsuit said the agency has made the most arrests and issued most of the citations under the law.

A spokesman for the state police said the agency wasn’t aware of the lawsuit, which seeks to block enforcement of the law. According to the suit, by outlawing begging at any place and time, the state’s measure is unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the First and 14th amendments.

“They are not alone,” the lawsuit stated. “Many others also suffer this same government persecution for their speech. Predictably, the threat of citation, arrest, detention, prosecution, conviction and penalties under this state law has chilled (them) and others from exercising their constitutionally protected rights to peacefully ask others for money, food or other charity.”

Garland County Circuit Judge Homer Wright, who dismissed a loitering charge against Rodgers, said that the law cannot be defended because “the state does not have a compelling interest in excluding those who beg in a peaceful manner.” Police Chief Jason Stachey responded to the dismissal saying that the increase of people begging for money at some of the busiest intersections causes safety concerns.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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