FREE SPEECH: The ACLU argues that a state law aimed at discouraging panhandling runs afoul of the 1st Amendment.

The Arkansas ACLU today sued the Arkansas State Police to prevent enforcement of a new law intended to replace an earlier anti-begging law declared unconstitutional. The ACLU says the new law continues to unconstitutionally criminalize begging.

ACLU release:


“We understand that being asked for money can make some people uncomfortable, but making an end-run around the Constitution is not the answer,” said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “The freedom of speech is a right guaranteed to everyone under the Constitution, including people who are down on their luck.”

“By censoring and even criminalizing people based on the content of their speech, this law violates the Constitution and infringes on one of our most fundamental freedoms,” said Bettina Brownstein, ACLU of Arkansas cooperating attorney.  “If we don’t defend unpopular speech, everyone’s free speech rights are at risk.”

The ACLU, suing on behalf of two people who face potential arrest for soliciting money, said the new law is drawn too broadly by criminalizing the act of asking for charity or a gift in “an aggressive or threatening manner.”

The ACLU has also successfully sued Arkansas cities with anti-begging ordinances.  The plaintiffs in those cases, Michael Rodgers and Glynn Dilbeck, are again plaintiffs in the latest federal suit, which follows.