ACLU files lawsuit to stop Boise's panhandling ordinance

Credit: Adam Worthington / KTVB

ACLU files lawsuit to stop Boise's panhandling ordinance


by Karen Zatkulak

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Posted on November 4, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 6:05 PM

BOISE -- A controversial ordinance leads to a federal lawsuit against the City of Boise.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with several plaintiffs, filed the lawsuit.

They hope it will overturn the city's anti-solicitation measure.

The ordinance was passed on September 17. The city is now defending the move, saying the ordinance protects citizens' rights.

But, it has has drawn harsh criticism from the beginning, especially from the homeless population.

Troy Minton is a Boise resident currently living out of his car, and trying to enroll in school.

"I was really surprised that the city was to me it seems like the city is trying to sneak low, and everything trying to kick us in the gut, whenever there are other people out there struggling, that are living day by day," said Minton.

Minton is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He admits he sometimes asks for gas money to get to job interviews.

"My biggest fear is either getting arrested or getting cited for this new ordinance," said Minton.

He is one of many who says the anti-solicitation ordinance oversteps his civil rights.

"The ordinance goes too far and violates constitutionally protected speech," said ACLU of Idaho board member Erika Birch.

The ACLU says the ordinance limits free speech and expression in public, downtown areas like sidewalk cafes, ATM's, and street corners.

"The law is far to broad to comply with the First Amendment and we are asking the court to strike it down," said ACLU of Idaho legal director Richard Eppink.

Previously, the city said the measure aimed at cracking down on aggressive panhandling.

They said they're hoping it will promote giving to shelters instead of people on the street.

"It would put greater restrictions on soliciting for money or panhandling around the city," said Boise spokesman Adam Park.

But the ACLU says it's a movement to push the homeless population off the streets of Boise.

"The lawsuit explains why the anti-solicitation ordinance violates the freedom of speech, the First Amendment, and the Idaho Constitution as well," said Eppink.

The city did release this statement regarding the lawsuit on Monday:

"The ordinance was carefully crafted to prevent aggressive solicitation while still ensuring the protection of all citizens' right to free speech. The City will defend the ordinance and is confident it will withstand this legal challenge."

It is scheduled to go into effect on January 2, 2014.

The Boise City Council passed the ordinance in September by a vote of 3 to 1.

A first violation of the ordinance would mean a warning, then a second offense would result in an infraction.