Illinois State Police and the DuPage County States Attorney’s Office have agreed to stop enforcing a state law prohibiting roadside panhandling in Illinois while a lawsuit challenging the law moves forward.
Clients Michael Dumiak and Christopher Simmons filed the lawsuit in August 2019, represented by the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), ACLU of Illinois, and the law firm of Schiff Hardin.
State police and the DuPage states attorney’s office agreed to a preliminary injunction, filed Jan. 14 by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago. Under the injunction, the agencies may not enforce a section of a state statute that bars asking for money from people in vehicles during the duration of the litigation.
“For now, our clients and many others will be able to exercise their First Amendment right to ask for help without interference from the state police,” said Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU, one of the lawyers in the case. “In the long term, we hope that the court agrees with us that this statute is unconstitutional and may not be enforced at all.”
Mr. Duimiak and Mr. Simmons sued after they were punished for asking for help when they panhandled in suburban Downers Grove. The men stood on a raised median strip seeking donations from people in vehicles stopped at the intersection of Butterfield and Finley roads.
Both men were charged under an Illinois statute that makes it a misdemeanor to stand on a median to solicit contributions, employment, business, or rides from passing vehicles. The statute does not prohibit other interactions with drivers and passengers, such as gathering petition signatures or distributing leaflets. It allows municipalities to exempt certain charities from the law, even as local police enforce it against individuals who ask for money for their own use.
A similar Downers Grove ordinance was rescinded shortly after the two men named the village in their lawsuit.
“Our clients were ticketed for panhandling when it was cold outside and they needed money to seek shelter,” said CCH Community Lawyer Diane O’Connell. “They were charged fines they couldn’t be expected to pay and one had to spend a night in jail because of a ticket. We hope this will prevent others from being prosecuted for asking for help.”
Staff Attorney Arturo Hernandez co-counsels the case for CCH.
For more information, contact:
CCH Community Lawyer Diane O’Connell
ACLU of Illinois
Edwin Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy