INDIANAPOLIS — The ACLU of Indiana has filed a lawsuit over a bill set to go into law this year that aims to cut down on the amount of panhandling in the state.
The bill, House Enrolled Act 1022, makes it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of a parking meter, parking garage, ATM, restaurant entrances and public monuments.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the ACLU and three ACLU staff members who solicit donations in downtown Indianapolis during the celebration of Constitution Day.
“This panhandling ban is an unconstitutional attack on free speech,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “Because of the broad definition of financial transaction, the expansion of the places near where panhandling is prohibited, and the increase of the distance restriction to 50 feet, HEA 1022 leaves virtually no sidewalks in downtown Indianapolis or any downtown area in any Indiana city where people can engage in this activity which courts have recognized is protected by the First Amendment.”
The law is set to go into effect on July 1.
When the amendment to include the panhandling language was introduced in February, Falk was already claiming it was unconstitutional.
“This is an attempt to drive people away from engaging in this activity in which we don’t like,” Falk said at the time. “One of the things the First Amendment has stood for since its inception is that sometimes we, as a society, have to tolerate things we don’t like. This just seems cruel.”