Settlement in the works in Hawaii County panhandling case; man says civil rights were violated

Associated Press

A settlement is in the works between Hawaii County and a man who said his citation for panhandling violated his civil rights.

Justin Guy was cited in June, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/1zRCqEm ). But a federal judge imposed a temporary restraining order in September stopping the county from enforcing its panhandling laws, and the charges against Guy were dropped.

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The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Guy, along with Honolulu attorney Matthew Winter of Davis Levin Livingston. The group asked a federal judge in Honolulu to overturn Hawaii County's ordinance banning aggressive solicitation anywhere, and strike down the blanket ban against panhandling in any county park.

"I would like to stand on a public sidewalk, or along public roadways, and hold a sign telling the public that I am homeless and that I would like their help," Guy said in a Sept. 8 court filing. "I want people to know that it's hard being homeless."

Guy wrote that he had not held such a sign on a public sidewalk or along a public street since June 3, when he was cited.

"In fact, I haven't held any sign in any public place in Hawaii County since that date," he wrote in the filing. "I am afraid that if I do, I will be cited or arrested by the Hawaii County Police Department. I am afraid that I will go to jail for holding a sign and asking for help."

Hawaii County has defended the 1999 ordinance, saying it protects the public.

Its deputy corporation counsel Jennifer Ng said Monday the parties reached a tentative settlement agreement. The Hawaii County Council plans to discuss the proposed settlement Wednesday.

Attorneys for both sides declined to discuss details.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com