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.

Status Update

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.

Date filed

June 4, 2015