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US Tenth Circuit Rules Albuquerque Panhandling Ordinance Violates First Amendment – LEGAL – News

The US 10th District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Albuquerque’s panhandling ordinance violates the rights of the First Amendment because the ordinance is not tight enough.

Albuquerque’s Panhandling Ordinance prohibits pedestrians from standing or congregating on streets, median strips, freeway exits and entrances, and major intersections. Pedestrians are also prohibited from speaking or interacting with drivers and passengers of vehicles. According to the regulation, it is forbidden to interact with pedestrians in a vehicle. The regulation came into force in December 2017 but was never fully implemented.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged the ordinance on behalf of beggars, protesters, and people distributing items to the needy. The ACLU argued that the ordinance was a direct attack on beggars, the homeless and the First Amendment.

City officials argued that the ordinance was made to address pedestrian safety concerns, and the restrictions were tightly tailored so as not to restrict speech more than necessary.

The appeals court upheld a 2019 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Black who ruled that the ordinance was not tight enough to avoid violating the rights of the First Amendment. Judge Jerome Holmes wrote in the Court of Appeal’s opinion that Albuquerque “is unable to determine that the ordinance does not involve significantly more language than is necessary to advance its interest in pedestrian safety”. In addition, Albuquerque has “almost completely failed to consider even alternative measures that are less restrictive or burdening the speech in question than the regulation”.

Leon Howard, Legal Director of ACLU New Mexico, endorsed the ruling, saying, “If you want to address the problem of panhandling, there are more holistic approaches to addressing this problem.”

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