A federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled that a Michigan law banning panhandling in public places violates the Constitution. The ruling was in response to a civil suit filed by two Grand Rapids men who were arrested in 2011 for begging, including James Speet, pictured above. / Michigan ACLU
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- A federal appeals court is taking up a case involving Michigan's anti-begging law.
Last year a federal judge sided with the American Civil Liberties Union, overturning the state panhandling ban based on the first amendment right to freedom of speech. However, now the Michigan Attorney General is appealing the decision.
Supporters of the ban say it protects the public from harassment and helps retailers since customers may avoid businesses with beggars outside.
The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of two Grand Rapids residents who have been repeatedly arrested or ticketed for violating the ban. Grand Rapids made 399 panhandling-related arrests between January 2008 and May 2011.