Free Speech

Panhandling is Protected Speech


Cities across Ohio have been criminalizing panhandling through outdated ordinances that violate the First Amendment and that criminalize the poor. The ACLU of Ohio has successfully litigated to strike down these unconstitutional ordinances in both Cleveland and Akron, and has negotiated the repeal of similar laws in many more Ohio cities.

The First Amendment provides the same protection to all people; we all have the right to express ourselves in public spaces, including when we need to ask for help. The government does not have the right to censor certain types of speech just because it does not agree with the message. Moreover, policies that silence the poor do not address poverty or homelessness effectively—actually, they exacerbate these issues. The ACLU of Ohio will continue to fight anti-panhandling laws throughout the state. We will continue to preserve the First Amendment rights of all people, and to fight the criminalization of poverty in our state.