Speet v. Schuette, No. 12-2213 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
The Michigan anti-begging statute, Mich. Comp. Laws 900, has existed since at least 1929 and provides that “[a] person is a disorderly person if the person is any of the following: ... (h) A person found begging in a public place.” A person convicted under section 750.167(1)(h) is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. The Grand Rapids police recorded 409 incidents of police enforcing the anti-begging law from 2008–2011. Plaintiffs, two homeless adults, were arrested. One was holding signs saying: “Cold and Hungry, God Bless” and “Need Job, God Bless.” The other, a veteran, needed money for bus fare, and asked a person on the street: “Can you spare a little change?” The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the law was unconstitutional. Begging is a form of solicitation that the First Amendment protects and the statute cannot withstand facial attack because it prohibits a substantial amount of solicitation, but allows other solicitation based on content.