Tuesday, June 28, 2005

law of vagrancy 2005

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Police Chief Bill McManus backed off on a plan to require panhandlers to register annually with the city and display a photo ID while they beg. Begging without a license could have resulted in arrest and misdemeanor charges.

"It certainly would be beneficial for downtown businesses and for people who are made to feel uncomfortable by panhandlers," McManus said (in a quote that seems lifted verbatim from Chambliss' crit-classic "Sociological Analysis of the Law of Vagrancy"). Chief McManus spearheaded a similar effort in Dayton, OH but neither the Minneapolis city council nor the mayor wanted to carry the flag on this one. As one might imagine, the ACLU points to constitutional problems with criminalizing begging. Restricting physically aggressive panhandling or limiting its time and place are probably constitutionally permissable, but the first amendment likely provides some protection of one's right to ask people for money.

My concern was more personal. As state support shrinks, the Minnversity is searching for new revenue streams. I'm glad I won't have to wear a laminated panhandling license around my neck at my next lunch with potential donors.

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