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Councilor: ACLU settlement won't deter panhandling proposal

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The city of Indianapolis reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union over enforcement of its panhandling ordinance, but that won't deter a City-County Council effort to pass a more restrictive law, a councilor said Wednesday morning.

“Ultimately, I see that this helps more than hinders,” Republican City-County Councilor Jeff Miller said of the ACLU settlement, in which the city agreed to drop citations against four people who were holding signs outside Circle Centre last August. The agreement was filed Friday and reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Police told them to stop their activity, which was legal under current ordinances and protected by the First Amendment, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said.

The city can keep enforcing an ordinance against panhandlers who beg from people in their cars, Falk said, because the existing ordinance applies to all forms of solicitation in roadways and 50 feet from intersections. He said the city misapplied the code when it tried to crack down on people whose signs were aimed at downtown pedestrians.

Miller and Democrat Vop Osili have been working for the past year on a proposal that would apply to begging from pedestrians, and Miller believes it will stand muster in court because it's similar to the existing ordinance on soliciting in roads.

“It’s focused on public safety," Miller said.

Under the proposal, all forms of solicitation, including holding signs, shaking cups and performing for tips, would be banned within 50 feet of financial transactions, as well as pedestrian intersections. Using that criteria, it would affect a large chunk of downtown.

The ordinance would apply to ATMs, banks, parking-meter pay boxes and outdoor cafes.

Miller thinks a court would uphold the new ordinance because it doesn’t try to regulate a form of speech.

“It doesn’t matter how you solicit,” Miller said. “If you’re soliciting, you need to be a safe distance from a financial transaction.”

A proposal was pending before a council committee last year, but Miller withdrew it in January to allow time for more feedback from stakeholders and to start from scratch with cleaner language. He said Osili will sponsor the new proposal, which could be introduced to the council as early as May.

“There were a lot of First Amendment problems with the ordinance that was being considered late last year,” Falk said. “We were prepared to sue if it had passed.”

Miller said he sought but didn't receive feedback from the ACLU.

Falk said one specific problem with the last proposal is that it would have banned solicitations anywhere in the city between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Miller said the time-of-day language won’t be in the next proposal.
 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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