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Summit County reworks panhandling law to settle lawsuit

Posted at 4:23 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 16:23:04-05

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A county council in Ohio on Monday revamped its law restricting panhandling to settle a lawsuit that said the previous ordinance restricted free speech rights by criminalizing the act of giving or receiving donations.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported the Summit County Council voted to remove a provision that could punish motorists and panhandlers on roads in the county’s nine townships.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued Summit County and Bath Township in April. A recent settlement called for the county to change the law and pay the man on whose behalf the ACLU sued, along with the group’s attorney fees and costs. The county continues to insist its 2018 law was constitutional.

The updated county ordinance prohibits people from impeding or obstructing vehicle traffic, as well as standing in rights of way and delaying the flow of traffic. It also says it’s illegal to touch or grab another person or their property without their consent.

The county’s laws now reflect the constitutional reality that panhandling is completely legal, said ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Bonham.

This latest change was the county’s third attempt at regulating panhandling.

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