Judge: Panhandling protected by Constitution

Judge: Panhandling protected by Constitution
Whether you are panhandling, dancing nude or lining a politician's campaign coffers with cash, you're protected by the Oregon Constitution's free speech provisions.

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A city law that bans begging for money on street corners violates the constitutional right to free speech, a Jackson County judge ruled in finding an anti-panhandling ordinance in Medford, Ore., unconstitutional.

The ordinance prohibits the solicitation of money at intersections and other locations. Judge Lorenzo Mejia ruled that it violates the Oregon Constitution, which prohibits the passage of laws restricting freedom of speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon challenged the ordinance. Executive director David Fidanque said Thursday that if the city doesn't appeal, panhandlers should be able to resume seeking money at intersections and freeway off-ramps — as long as they don't violate traffic laws while doing so.

City Attorney John Huttl told the Mail Tribune newspaper that officials haven't decided whether to appeal.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.)