October 24, 2016
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state's loitering law, which outlaws the act of asking for money, food or other charity any time and any place. The ACLU asserts the law is unconstitutional because it criminalizes speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The case was filed on behalf of two individuals, Michael Andrew Rodgers and Mr. Glynn Dilbeck. Michael Andrew Rodgers is a disabled veteran who holds up a sign and peacefully asks for money from passers-by. He uses any money he receives to live on. Glynn Dilbeck is a homeless man who holds up a sign asking for money that he uses to help pay for his daughter’s medical bills. Mr. Rodgers has been arrested, jailed, and assessed fees and fines for violating the law, which makes it a crime to beg anywhere and anytime. Mr. Dilbeck has been cited by the Arkansas State Police and subject to criminal proceedings for violating this same law. Both individuals are now afraid to continue begging for fear of breaking this law.
Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said “The First Amendment was adopted by our founders as a safeguard against government controls on what we can and cannot say, whether we’re asking for someone’s vote, or for money, food, or other charity. This country was founded on the essential principle that government cannot stifle speech that some people find annoying or uncomfortable—if it could, there would be no speech at all.”
The ACLU lawsuit also asserts that the Arkansas’ anti-begging prohibition, which prohibits begging any place and any time, is unconstitutionally broad under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The case, Rogers v. Bryant, challenging Arkansas law, Ark. Code Ann. § 5-71-213(a) (3) was filed in the United States Federal District Court against the Director for the Arkansas State Police.
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