Federal judge puts halt to Utah’s panhandling law

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has sided with plaintiffs arguing that Utah’s law against panhandling is unconstitutional and shouldn’t be enforced.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that attorney Brian Barnard sued the state in 2010 on behalf of three homeless people who were cited for panhandling. He claimed the ban violated his clients’ right to free speech.

In a March 15 order, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City granted the plaintiffs’ motion seeking to order agencies statewide to stop enforcing the law.

Earlier in the week, state attorneys argued the panhandling prohibition addressed traffic and public safety concerns. But Stewart found Utah’s law is too sweeping and infringes on constitutionally protected rights.

Barnard says if officers now enforce the law, they can be sued.

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