Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Mass. SJC to Hear Arguments in Fall River Anti-Panhandling Suit

The ACLU of Massachusetts filed the lawsuit against Fall River last year, arguing it's aggressively enforcing a law that bans people from asking for money on public roads

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments challenging a law that makes it illegal for people to ask for money on public roads Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Fall River in March of last year, arguing the city was aggressively enforcing the state law. They also argue the law itself is unconstitutional.

The group is representing the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and two homeless men they say have been repeatedly targeted for standing by the side of roads with signs and accepting donations from drivers.

During 2018 and into 2019, the Fall River Police Department filed more than 150 criminal complaints against people experiencing homelessness, according to the ACLU.

Fall River Police have argued that the law is meant to keep pedestrians safe and avoid congestion on highway off ramps and traffic lights.

The law bans anyone from signaling to or stopping a moving car in order to solicit money or try to sell something other than newspapers or tickets to an event. Violators can be fined $50.

Lawyers argue the law restricts free speech and prevents people from trying to make ends meet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Us