Law: Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

A federal judge protects panhandling as a form of free speech

Do the poor have a constitutional right to beg? Yes, says New York federal district-court judge Leonard Sand. In a novel ruling, Sand found that panhandling is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. "A true test of one's commitment to constitutional principles," he wrote, "is the extent to which recognition is given to the rights of those in our midst who are the least affluent, least powerful and least welcome."

The case grew out of attempts by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to crack down on panhandling in New York City subway cars and stations, but the ruling...

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