For now, Lafayette has secured a legal win in its effort to cut down on panhandling, but that might not last unless it shifts its strategy.
Last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected an attempt to invalidate the city-parish consolidated government’s Ordinance 62-32(7). That makes illegal “Acting in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others.” In the past few months, law enforcement has used that to arrest panhandlers.
Since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 in an unrelated case, local governments haven’t been able to ban panhandling, as soliciting for noncommercial purposes has become protected speech where government has a high burden of proof to restrict. As a result, they have sought means that are neutral in regards to content of the speech conveyed and with an objective important enough to override First Amendment concerns, while leaving adequate alternative channels for speech dissemination.