Columbus turning a blind eye to panhandling laws

Columbus cops are no longer cracking down on panhandlers for fear the city may be sued.

Local beggars can thank a 2015 case from Arizona for that.

The U.S. Supreme Court settled a case involving signs that a church had put up in a rented space at an elementary school. The city in Arizona where this took place regulated the size, number, durations, and location of where these signs could be. The church didn’t like that at all and decided to sue. The ruling stated that tougher regulations could not be placed on the church’s signs than with signs stating other messages.

Essentially the church and their signs won.

Lawyers then used the ruling from this case to challenge panhandling laws. American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio struck up cases against other Ohio cities like Akron, Dayton, and Toledo to end panhandling laws.

To avoid Columbus being next up to the stand, CPD officers were called off enforcing begging laws on June 1. Not that this law is used often; there were only 20 cases of aggressive panhandling in 2017. “Aggressive panhandling” being described by city law as begging “with the intent to intimidate another person into giving money or goods,” according to The Dispatch. This could also mean begging within 25 feet of a bank, outdoor patio or within 10 feet of a parking lot or parking meter.

At the end of the day, the issue of panhandling goes far beyond sign laws. This is a matter of the First Amendment.



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