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Articles Posted in 1st Amendment Law

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is expected to hear Massachusettts Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Fall River, this Monday, November 2nd regarding the controversial Massachusetts statute “17A.” This statute basically forbids soliciting from vehicles on public ways.  Although panhandling is not explicitly mentioned in the statute, in March of 2019, the Fall River Police Department filed over 150 criminal complaints under the statute, most of which targeted the homeless.

This case is being brought by members of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. The named plaintiffs in this case, John Correira and Joseph Treeful are both members of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. Correira and Treeful are both low-income residents of Fall River.  Both have experienced homeless and both rely on panhandling as a source of income. Because of this, they have been subject to combined forty-three criminal complaints, and both have been incarcerated in connection with the complaints.

Panhandling is a prevalent issue that has been around since Colonial times. In light of stagnant wages, high rent, the opioid crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic, panhandling is not going to disappear anytime soon. With the current state of tragedy the world is in, many individuals are going to find themselves at rock bottom, without a steady income to fall back on.

As a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, one of the more interesting defenses to a criminal charge is a First Amendment attack on whether the law is Constitutional. Recently, there have made some First Amendment challenges to the Involuntary Manslaughter Statute in Massachusetts in the Michelle Carter case.  The Massachusetts Supreme Court ultimately rejected that claim finding that the involuntary manslaughter statute punished conduct and was not punishing someone for their viewpoint, but was permitted regulation of conduct that indirectly impacts speech.  Revenge Porn Laws have been challenged on First Amendment grounds.  The United States Supreme Court may hear a case from Illinois that deal with the criminalizing so called Revenge Porn and how it can comport with the requirements of Free Speech under the First Amendment.  The case is Bethany Austin v. State of Illinois, and the filing can be found on the Scotus Blog.  

How did the State of Illinois try to criminalize Revenge Porn?

Illinois passed, like many other states a Revenge Porn Law.  The statute precludes online dissemination via the internet of photographic, film, videotape, digital recordings or depictions or portrays of another person engaged in sex act or with their intimate parts exposed.  The Act covers any circumstance where a reasonable person would know that the person wanted the images to stay private and published them without consent.

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