ACLU files lawsuit to challenge Boise's panhandling ordinance

ACLU files lawsuit to challenge Boise's panhandling ordinance »Play Video

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday to challenge the city of Boise's new aggressive panhandling ordinance.

The ACLU and the National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Federal Court.

In September, the city council adopted a new ordinancee to stop panhandling in some parts of the city that makes it illegal for people to ask for money in roadways, near an ATM, near sidewalk cafes, at bus stops and in several other public places.

Police can find panhandlers $60 the first time. If you're caught again in the same year, it's a misdemeanor, and you could face jail time.

"This ordinance is nothing more than the government telling us what we can say and where we can say it," said Richard Eppink, legal director for the ACLU of Idaho. "Not only does it offend the Constitution by banning protected free speech and expression in public areas in Boise, but it also unfairly burdens struggling families in our community who need help. Military veterans, individuals with disabilities, and the least among us, who are forced to pray for alms in the streets, will be pushed out of view."

The city of Boise issued a statement late Monday morning through its spokesman.

“The ordinance was carefully crafted to prevent  aggressive solicitation while still ensuring the protection of all citizens’ right to free speech," the statement reads. "The City will defend the ordinance and is confident it will withstand this legal challenge.”