East Hawaii News

ACLU Files First Amendment Lawsuit Challenging Local Panhandling Law

September 10, 2014, 1:12 PM HST
* Updated September 10, 2:17 PM
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A lawsuit filed Monday argues that certain Hawai’i County codes unconstitutionally prohibit panhandling.

According to a press release issued Tuesday, The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i filed the lawsuit on behalf of Justin Guy.

According to the report, the lawsuit comes after Guy was cited June 3 for panhandling while holding a sign saying “Homeless Please Help” on the side of Kaiwi Street in Kailua-Kona.

A Hawai‘i County Police Department officer informed Guy that panhandling was illegal and ordered him to move.

Guy then argued he had a right to hold the sign on the side of the road before the officer cited him for panhandling.

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The lawsuit argues the ordinance used for the citation is unconstitutional because it unlawfully restricts free speech rights.

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ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck said they have been trying to resolve the issue for more than a year, and allege the Hawai’i County Corporation Counsel has failed to respond.

Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins said they did respond and tried to solve the issue outside of the courts.

Gluck tells a different story.

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“That’s not correct. We had tried to work things out with them and they never responded to it in our office,” he said.

Stebbins said the lawsuit has to deal with a county code that prohibits different forms and manners of solicitation.

“The code in the lawsuit states the county recognizes that individuals have First Amendment rights, but those rights aren’t without limits,” she said.

Gluck disagrees with that reasoning.

“People are allowed to have campaign signs and signatures but they’re not allowed to stop and ask for help when they’re homeless?” he said.

Stebbins said in Guy’s case, the concern had to deal with his location on the side of the road.

Guy’s charges were eventually dropped, but Gluck said he wants the law off the books.

A judge will hear the case Friday, Sept. 19.

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