East Hawaii News

Judge Grants TRO Against County in Kona Panhandling Case

September 19, 2014, 8:38 PM HST
* Updated September 14, 12:26 PM
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A United States District Court judge recently ordered a temporary restraining order against Hawai’i County.

Judge Susan Oki Mollway granted the restraining order that will prohibit the county from interfering with plaintiff Justin Guy’s right to hold a sign saying “Homeless Please Help.”

Earlier this month, the ACLU of Hawai’i filed a lawsuit on behalf of Guy after he was cited on June 3 for panhandling while holding his sign in Kona.

That day, a Hawai‘i County Police Department officer told Guy that panhandling was illegal and ordered him to “leave the area” – just as other HPD officers had done before.

The officer then cited Guy for violating a county code that prohibits solicitation for money in a wide range of public places on the island.

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The criminal charges against Guy were eventually dismissed, but ACLU representatives are arguing the lawsuit was brought to protect the constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights of Guy.

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Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins previously told Big Island Now that the code in the lawsuit states the county recognizes that individuals have First Amendment rights, but those rights aren’t without limits.

A hearing is scheduled for January 21, 2015 to address the constitutionality of several county laws restricting solicitation.

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