Grand Rapids Police stop enforcing begging law

6:13 AM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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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

UPDATE AT 4:40 P.M. (WZZM) -- The city of Grand Rapids is no longer enforcing the state's anti-panhandling law in the wake of a federal judge's ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

City attorney Catherine Mish issued a statement late Monday, saying police would no longer enforce the law, which makes it illegal to beg or panhandle in a public place.

According to the statement, the decision to suspend enforcement is "pending future developments in the case."

"The City, in consultation with the Michigan Attorney General's office, will analyze the Federal Court's opinion and determine whether the court decision will be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit," according to the news release.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- A federal judge in Grand Rapids says a Michigan law banning panhandling in public places "on its face" violates the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker made his ruling Friday in a civil suit by two Grand Rapids men arrested in 2011 for begging.

James Speet and Ernest Sims were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU says the city enforced the law 399 times between Jan. 1, 2008 and May 24, 2011.

Speet receives food stamps. He holds up signs seeking "work or help."

Sims receives food stamps and $260 per month. He pleaded guilty to panhandling after asking for spare change.

The Associated Press left a message Monday seeking comment from the Grand Rapids city attorney's office.


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