In January 2014, the Springfield, Missouri, City Council passed an amended panhandling ordinance. In December 2015, an individual filed a federal lawsuit against the City claiming that the ordinance was not being properly applied. Ultimately, in mid-December, a Federal Judge issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance.

Since that time, the City’s prosecutor has dismissed all pending citations under the ordinances and has declined to file any new citations.

Springfield’s ordinance attempted to limit panhandling to passive panhandling and also placed restrictions on where panhandling was expressly prohibited (i.e., within 5 feet from the curb of roadways, etc.).

The federal lawsuit claims that the City has not been applying the ordinance correctly and, specifically, alleges that the plaintiff was threatened with a ticket when he tried to passively panhandle.

The ongoing debate, in regards to these panhandling ordinances, is the argument between free speech and the safety and comfort of residents out in public.

This will be another case to monitor (similar to the situation playing out with regard to the Springfield, Illinois, panhandling ordinance) to see how the courts handle a panhandling ordinance, and to potentially shape panhandling ordinances moving forward.

Timothy J. Clifton

Author: Timothy J. Clifton