Panhandler plans to sue over Henrico ordinance - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Panhandler plans to sue over Henrico ordinance


A man plans to file a federal lawsuit against Henrico County over its new crackdown on panhandling.

Robert S. Reynolds says the ordinance passed last week violates his right to ask for money. The original ordinance passed in 2008 prohibits people from standing in medians. Panhandlers got around that by sitting. Now, no one is allowed to panhandle or solicit in medians at all.

The Henrico Board of Supervisors passed the change last Tuesday, claiming concerns over safety. Reynolds says it's actually a "a ruse designed to get rid of bums in Henrico."

Reynolds plans to file his lawsuit Wednesday, claiming panhandling is free speech and the ordinance violates his First Amendment rights.

"Counties are allowed to regulate speech in terms of time, place and manner," said NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin. "That's what appears Henrico has done in a pretty straightforward manner."

When he files, Reynolds' lawsuit won't be the first panhandling lawsuit that's landed in federal court. Earlier this year, a judge threw out a lawsuit filed by five homeless men in Charlottesville who echoed Reynolds' claims. 

Meanwhile, Henrico's County Attorney Joseph Rapisarda, Jr. said the ordinance as written is "very appropriate" and that Reynolds' complaint has "no merit."

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