LAFAYETTE, La. - The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Lafayette district court judge was wrong in finding that Lafayette Consolidated Government's ordinance making panhandling a crime is unconstitutional.
The case centers around Anthony Willis, a homeless man who was repeatedly arrested by Lafayette Police officers over the spring and summer for begging for money from the public.
Willis was charged with criminal mischief, but Judge Michele Billeaud ruled the ordinance unconstitutional.Today's ruling by the state's high court throws out Billeaud's finding and opens the door for LCG and Lafayette Police to again aggressively enforce the ordinance and jail people caught panhandling.
News15 reported over the summer about a directive issued by now-former LPD Chief Thomas Glover warning officers they would face discipline if they didn't enforce the ordinance or report the presence of panhandlers when responding to more urgent calls.
The state high court's ruling runs afoul of a previous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court finding that panhandling is protected speech under the First Amendment.