KARK reports that Federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson
has blocked enforcement of a state law that makes it a misdemeanor offense to beg.
The ACLU sued in behalf of two homeless people who panhandle and have been cited by police before. The ruling doesn't apply to a variety of municipal ordinances around the state that make various attempts to prevent panhandling, such as one in Hot Springs that restricts solicitation in the public right of way.
The ACLU argued that the statute violated First Amendment rights. Michael Rodgers and Glynn Eilbeck sued the director of the State Police over the law.
The judge said the law against begging is on its facea violation of constitutionally protected speech. The law simply makes it a crime of loitering to remain in a public place or the premises of another "for the purpose of begging."
The judge elaborated:
A statute that regulates speech based on its content, must be narrowly tailored to promote a compelling government interest. Banning begging in all places, at all times, by all people, in all ways does not come close to chinning this bar. Arkansas’s anti-begging law infringes on the freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution.
He permanently enjoined enforcement of the statute.