First Amendment

Panhandler Challenges Begging Ban

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A homeless man in New Rochelle, N.Y., claims his arrest for begging violates the First Amendment.

A federal judge struck down a begging ban in a 1992 ruling that applied to New York City, but since then more than 2,300 people have been arrested through New York state for the offense, according to the New York Times.

The homeless man, Eric Hoffstead, was arrested after asking a police officer for money. He told the newspaper he asked his lawyer to pursue the constitutional argument after reading about a similar case elsewhere.

In another case pending in New York City, a lawyer is seeking class-action status for a suit that claims city police are violating the 1992 ban on panhandling arrests, which was upheld by a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that loitering statutes are unconstitutional, but has never addressed the issue of statutes that ban begging, said Michael C. Dorf, a professor at the Columbia University School of Law.

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