Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
An Indianapolis ordinance forbidding homeless people to orally panhandle for a living after sunset passes constitutional muster, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled just before the Labor Day holiday. According to the panel of judges’ unanimous decision on Aug. 31, the city’s bankers’ hours limitation on the homeless’ normally protected verbal solicitation of donations constituted reasonable, clearly defined counter-measures to citizens’ perceived fears of strangers suddenly approaching them in the gloaming or as they head home from work, shopping or a night out on the town. Gresham v. City of Indianapolis, No. 99-3770. For instance, noted Judge Michael S. Kanne who wrote the opinion, the Indianapolis ordinance was restricted to the nocturnal asking for money in “public places.” And accompanying prohibitions on daytime panhandling were further limited to obviously sensitive places that included bus stops, ATMs and sidewalk cafes. Moreover, Kanne pointed out, panhandling was still permissible by the Indianapolis ordinance in the evening so long as it was made “passively” in writing — for instance, with the aid of a placard. Nor would homeless singers, musicians and other artists who implicitly seek donations at night by performing with a hat or empty box in front of them violate the ordinance, the judge wrote. Kanne also observed that, as yet another alternative under the assailed ordinance, the homeless could solicit in the evening by phone or by knocking on doors, one at a time. The Indianapolis panhandling ordinance appears to be one of the most restrictive in the country, but certainly stops short of entirely banning the practice, as some localities have unsuccessfully attempted to do in the past, noted A. Scott Chinn, corporation counsel for the City of Indianapolis. “I believe our version was held to be constitutional because it reasonably restricts the time, place and manner in which panhandling can occur; it does not ban it,” Chinn said. The consequences of making a wrong call can certainly be serious. Those violating the Indianapolis panhandling ordinance stand to be fined up to $2,500 for each offense, and local judges are required to enjoin further violations. Violations of the mandatory restraining order could result in incarceration. In upholding an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin of the Southern District of Indiana, the appeals court rejected the plea of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union — which pursued the appeal on behalf of a local homeless man — that the city’s ordinance was an unconstitutionally vague restriction on a financially distressed citizen’s First Amendment right of free speech. “Homeless people are not usually” in a position or of a mindset to use a placard or musical instrument to say to passersby, ” ‘Look, I … or my kids … haven’t had anything to eat in a week, can you help me out?’ ” observed the ACLU’s Kenneth Falk. Still, the court insisted that the homeless were not being singled out and that the city’s general ban on nighttime panhandling was applicable to anyone who solicited money, including volunteers for charities. “It applies with equal force” to any “recognized charity … religious group … political candidate or for an individual,” reminded Kanne. “It would punish street people as well as Salvation Army bell ringers outside stores at Christmas, so long as the appeal involved a vocal request for an immediate donation.” Kanne did concede that some of the definitional language in the Indianapolis ordinance might be open to varied interpretations — for instance, as to exactly what constitutes an immediate verbal solicitation of money. But he observed that the ordinance could be “easily narrowed” to meet a reasonable person standard as the Supreme Court has encouraged all lower courts to apply before enjoining a local ordinance on constitutional grounds. Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205 (1975). On Tuesday, the ACLU’s Falk said he was still considering whether to petition the court for a rehearing or to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “I [still] believe that some parts of the ordinance are clearly vague,” he concluded. “Those parts do not help the panhandler or the police … or even the courts know” exactly what language or acts are envisioned as being illegal.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.