LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge has agreed to put a lawsuit on hold that challenges Arkansas’ new panhandling law. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson issued the ruling Monday in a lawsuit filed against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two panhandlers.
Wilson last year struck down a section of the law that prohibited begging for money, food or other charity. The law was later revised. But in late September, Wilson issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law’s enforcement, saying the revised section of the law still violated the U.S. Constitution because it prohibited a specific type of speech.
The new law expanded the definition of loitering to include anyone asking for charity or a gift in a harassing or threatening manner that’s likely to cause alarm in others or create a traffic hazard. Wilson argued that by applying only to beggars and not to other people who linger — such as people stumping for political candidates, soliciting business customers or promoting religious beliefs — that section of the law was “a content-based restriction of constitutionally protected speech.”
Both sides asked Wilson last week to put the case on hold while the state appeals his latest ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge agreed Monday, telling the parties to file a motion to lift the halt once the appeal is resolved.