Federal court rules Mich. panhandling law violates free speech

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) -- A federal appeals court has ruled unconstitutional a state law banning panhandling in public places.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit court on Wednesday agreed with a lower court's opinion last year that the law violates First Amendment protections for free speech. The case stems from the arrest of two Grand Rapids men arrested in 2011 for begging.

The appellate opinion says the law "would chill a substantial amount of First Amendment-protected activity." It added that Michigan's interest in preventing fraud can be better served by a more narrowly tailored statute.

James Speet and Ernest Sims were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which called the ruling a "victory for free speech."

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's spokeswoman Joy Yearout says the ruling is under review.

Published: Fri, Aug 16, 2013