A settlement was reached in federal court today between Salt Lake City and three men who had been cited by Salt Lake City police for panhandling.---
In June 2010, civil rights attorney Brian Barnard filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of three individuals who had been cited for panhandling in Salt Lake City. Barnard argued his clients’ First Amendment rights were violated by state statute when police cited them while ignoring other comparable solicitations—such as charitable solicitations that happen from the roadside, like people asking for donations to be placed in a fireman’s boot for example.
In the settlement reached today, the city has agreed to not issue tickets to people who hold signs asking for money or assistance, so long as the individual does not stand in a location that would pose a safety risk to themselves or to others.
Bill Tibbits, the Anti-Hunger Project Director for the Crossroads Urban Center hailed the settlement, along with the Salt Lake City Council’s backing off of a new panhandling ordinance as signs that the city may be re-thinking its policies toward the homeless.
"City officials seem to have recognized that what they are worried about is a social work issue, not a law enforcement issue," Tibbits says. "Hopefully they will now begin looking for solutions that are more likely to succeed in getting people with real problems off the streets."