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Federal Judge Blocks Sacramento’s ‘Aggressive Panhandling’ Ordinance

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

James "Faygo" Clark and his dog, Cosmo, walk through Midtown. Clark has been living on the streets for nearly 15 years.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the city of Sacramento’s enforcement of a law banning panhandling near ATMs, banks, bus stops and business entrances.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg says he understands the practice is protected by the First Amendment, but says the city does need a tool to give businesses some relief and combat aggressive panhandlers.

“Either by virtue of where they're standing or how they're going about the panhandling that it is reasonable for the city to look at how to strike that balance,” Steinberg said. “The court, in this instance, said we didn't quite get the balance right and we're willing to look at it.”

Sacramento passed the ordinance banning “aggressive panhandling” last November. It prevented people from soliciting money within 30 feet of a bank or ATM, or asking for food or help from anyone dining outside a restaurant. If they broke the law and were cited with an infraction more than a few times within six months, they could face a misdemeanor.

A homeless man named James Clark sued the city with the help of Legal Services of Northern California and the regional American Civil Liberties Union chapter, claiming the ordinance violated Clark's First Amendment right to ask for help.

Mayor Steinberg said instead of dwelling on the judge’s ruling, he's more focused on other steps the city is taking to reduce the number of people living on the streets, including adding outreach workers and increasing shelter space and permanent housing.

Drew Sandsor

Senior Producer, News

As Senior Producer of News, Drew works with reporters and anchors on the daily production and presentation of news stories on Capital Public Radio. He also works closely with the station's digital team on news coverage across various online platforms  Read Full Bio 

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