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Man sues American Fork over panhandler law

Published: Sunday, Sept. 30 2012 10:38 p.m. MDT

AMERICAN FORK — A homeless Utah man who won an earlier legal battle with the state over a panhandling ordinance is now suing the city of American Fork over his right to stand on roadsides with a sign asking for money.

The Utah Legal Clinic and Utah Civil Rights and Liberties Foundation filed the lawsuit in federal court in Salt Lake City Wednesday on behalf of Steve Ray Evans.

Evans said the mayor of American Fork, City Council and others are violating his First Amendment rights. His lawsuit says he's been cited by at least three American Fork police officers who have told him panhandling is illegal in the city.

Utah code makes it illegal to "sit, stand or loiter on or near a roadway" in order to solicit a ride, money, employment or other business. But a federal judge ruled in March the law was unconstitutional and shouldn't be enforced.

Evans said the law "discriminates among types of speech" and "depends solely on a person expressing the 'wrong' words." He said he is homeless and unemployed and has no choice but to continue panhandling.

"In order to bring in enough money to survive, Evans sometimes engages in panhandling," the documents state. "He has done so within the municipal boundaries of American Fork City, Utah. He holds a sign visible to passersby. He has found holding a sign to be an effective means of communicating with people. He does not approach or speak to people unless invited to do so."

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, at least a nominal monetary award for Evans and the end of enforcement of the law, among other things.

Kasey Wright, an attorney representing American Fork, said Friday that he was still reviewing the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

Evans filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Draper in June. It was settled in July when the city agreed to stop enforcing the law and pay a monetary award to Evans.

His lawyers also initiated a similar lawsuit in 2010 against the Utah Highway Patrol and Salt Lake City.

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