Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Selected Court Cases on Panhandling

The following are some notable U.S. court cases addressing the constitutionality of panhandling and laws that regulate it. You should consult local legal counsel to determine the state of the law in your jurisdiction.

Berkeley Community Health Project v. Berkeley, 902 F. Supp. 1084 (N.D. Cal. 1995) and 966 F. Supp. 941 (N.D. Cal. 1997). Struck down an ordinance that, among other restrictions, banned begging at night. The city subsequently deleted that provision from the ordinance, leaving only an ATM restriction intact.

Blair v. Shanahan, 775 F. Supp. 1315 (N.D. Cal. 1991). Struck down a ban on accosting people to beg. The decision was subsequently vacated, 919 F. Supp. 1361 (N.D. Cal. 1996).

C.C.B. v. State, 458 So. 2d 47 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984). Struck down a total ban on begging in public.

Carreras v. City of Anaheim, 768 F. 2d 1039, 1046 (9th Cir. 1985). Held that the California Constitution is broader than the U.S. Constitution in protecting speech; struck down begging ordinances.

Chad v. Fort Lauderdale, 861 F. Supp. 1057 (S.D. Fla. 1994). Upheld a ban on begging on the beach and boardwalk.

City of Seattle v. Webster, 802 P. 2d 1333 (Wash. 1990), cert. denied, 111 S. Ct. 1690 (1991). Upheld an ordinance banning sidewalk obstruction.

Doucette v. Santa Monica, 995 F. Supp. 1192 (C.D. Cal. 1996). Upheld time, place and manner restrictions on begging.

Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Cincinnati, 56 F. 3d 710, 714 (6th Cir. 1995). Cites evidence that the enforcement of an anti-begging ordinance reduced the incidence of begging.

Loper v. New York City Police Department, 999 F. 2d 699 (2d Cir. 1993). Struck down a ban on loitering for the purposes of begging on city streets.

Los Angeles Alliance for Survival v. City of Los Angeles, 157 F. 3d 1162 (9th Cir. 1998). Struck down an aggressive-begging ordinance. The California Supreme Court subsequently overturned the lower court's ruling on the constitutionality of the ordinance, sending the case back to the federal district court.

State ex rel. Williams v. City Court of Tucson, 520 P. 2d 1166 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1974). Upheld a loitering-for-the-purpose-of-begging ordinance.

Ulmer v. Municipal Court for Oakland-Piedmont Judicial District, 55 Cal. App. 3d 263, 127 Cal. Rpt. 445 (1976). Upheld a ban on begging that was later struck down by the Blair court.

Young v. New York City Transit Authority, 903 F. 2d 146 (2d Cir. 1990). Upheld a ban on begging in the subway.