In July 2021 the First Amendment Clinic, in partnership with the National Homelessness Law Center, wrote to Augusta-Richmond County officials urging them to reject a proposed expansion of the County’s panhandling ordinance and to repeal the existing ordinance due to its unconstitutional targeting of protected speech.

By “criminalizing the innocent act of requesting charity,” the ordinance “is accordingly a content-based restriction on speech,” the Clinic’s letter explains. It targets only a particular subject matter of expression while leaving sidewalk speech, in general, unburdened. For example, a community organizer seeking signatures for a petition, a campaign worker handing out buttons for her candidate, and a sidewalk preacher looking to save souls would all still be allowed.

Many similar panhandling ordinances around the country have been struck down on First Amendment grounds and others have been voluntarily repealed.

Read related coverage in the Augusta Chronicle.

In August 2021, Augusta-Richmond commissioners rejected an expansion of the panhandling ordinance but left the existing version in place.