Colorado Springs drops hundreds of panhandling charges

Colorado Springs is dropping 375 panhandling-related cases, according to a letter City Attorney Wynetta Massey sent to the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado on Friday.

In September and again in October, the ACLU had written the city arguing Colorado Springs had been wrongfully enforcing its panhandling ordinance, prosecuting homeless and impoverished people who had not been breaking the law.

“The City’s two panhandling ordinances specifically exempt individuals who engage in passive solicitation—meaning that people who merely display a sign inviting charity do not violate the ordinances,” said Mark Silverstein of the ACLU in a statement.

In an investigation, the ACLU found that police, prosecutors and judges had been using the law to punish people who had been holding signs, a First Amendment protected activity allowed under the Colorado Springs ordinance.

“The City’s practice had resulted in poor people being fined and imprisoned – for as much as 90 days – under circumstances that could not be legally or morally justified,” said Silverstein.

In recent weeks, Denver Police Chief Robert White ordered his department to stop enforcing his city’s panhandling ordinance in response to a U.S. District Court decision that Grand Junction’s similar law violated the First Amendment.

 

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Creative Commons, Flickr

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Yay, freedom of speech! Unfortunately, that defense shouldn’t really apply in situations where there are people asking for money at the corner of every single intersection. It’s out of control. They aren’t contributing anything to society or even freely expressing their views; they are using constitutional rights as a shield to manipulate people into giving them money through guilt, intimidation & general discomfort. Either make panhandling illegal or designate certain areas for that type of behavior (and watch everyone stop going there). Gentrification begins with common sense.

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