Federal judge blocks Daytona Beach panhandling ordinance

Judge believes ordinance violates First Amendment

A panhandling sign in Melbourne. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A federal judge has granted an injunction against an ordinance in Daytona Beach banning panhandling.

U.S. Judge Wendy Berger issued the preliminary injunction this week against the 2019 ordinance, which makes it illegal to beg, demand or request money in certain areas of the city, even if it’s for a charitable donation. Violators can be punished with 60 days in jail, and/or a fine up to $500.

Areas of the city where panhandling is prohibited include sidewalks and medians, bus stops, ATMs, near schools and daycares, and along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. It also bans “aggressive” panhandling.

Berger, in her order, wrote that requesting charity is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, regardless of whether it is called panhandling, begging or soliciting, and are likely to succeed in winning their case based on those First Amendment claims.

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The order makes it clear the city of Daytona Beach cannot enforce the ordinance.

Four people who live and panhandle in the Daytona Beach area sued the city, with the help of Southern Legal Counsel and pro bono attorneys. The order said law enforcement has made at least 246 arrests for violating the ordinance.

The panhandling ordinance got a national spotlight when a performer known as The Naked Cowboy was arrested during 2021 Bike Week for violating the panhandling ordinance. Last year, the city agreed to a $90,000 settlement with the performer, who is named Robert Burck, after Burck sued the city saying the ordinance was unconstitutional.

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Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.