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First Amendment

NY Panhandler Case Now a Class Action

Posted Jul 25, 2007 2:57 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal judge in New York City has certified as a class action a case brought on behalf of some 5,000 to 10,000 panhandlers allegedly arrested or forced off the streets for begging.

Despite a 1992 federal court decision that the state loitering law being applied was unconstitutional--and an appeals court ruling upholding that decision--authorities have continued to enforce the illegal law for another 15 years, according to the Associated Press. In her decision Tuesday granting class action status to the case, U.S. Dist. Judge Shira Sheindlin was critical of police and prosecutors for doing so, AP notes. Authorities reportedly are now trying to take steps to comply with the 1992 ruling.

It found that state law violated the First Amendment by permitting the arrest of a person who "loiters, remains or wanders about in a public place for the purpose of begging."

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