Free Speech on the Docket

Challenge to Youngstown Panhandling Ordinance

Case Dates:
Thursday, 4 June, 2015 - Wednesday, 17 August, 2016

In 2009, Youngstown enacted an ordinance providing that, “[n]o person shall beg for money or other things of value within the City,” and that anyone who violated the ordinance would be guilty of a minor misdemeanor. Youngstown Codified Ordinance § 509.08. Public records that we requested revealed that numerous individuals have been charged under this ordinance.

Legal Theory:

Panhandling is constitutionally protected expressive activity. Youngstown’s ordinance, because it banned all panhandling, was overbroad and therefore violated the First Amendment.


On June 4, 2015, we sent a letter to Youngstown city officials threatening litigation if they did not promptly repeal the city’s unconstitutional law. Following receipt of our letter, Youngstown’s Law Director informed us that the city’s panhandling ordinance would no longer be enforced. On June 13, 2016, Youngstown City Council met to consider a new, narrower ordinance styled as an anti-loitering ordinance. On August 1, 2016, the City Council proposed further narrowing language to the ordinance. City Council met again on August 17, 2016, for the third and final reading of the anti-loitering ordinance, and adopted the narrower ordinance.