St. Louis County is in a legal battle with homeless man over his 'right to beg'

"The First Amendment ," the county argues, "does not guarantee the right to communicate at all times and places or in any manner that may be desired."

Digital Content Producer
September 05, 2019 - 8:03 am
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CLAYTON, MO (KFTK) - St. Louis County is responding to a federal lawsuit that says a homeless man has a Constitutional right to beg for money on the off-ramp at Interstate 55 and Lindbergh.  

Robert Fernandez, a Mehlville High graduate in his mid-40s, filed the suit earlier this summer, complaining that the 38 tickets he had received from county police for begging violates his freedom of speech.

The county's formal response to the suit says asking motorists for money by walking between cars waiting on the highway off-ramp is dangerous. 

"The First Amendment," the county argues, "does not guarantee the right to communicate at all times and places or in any manner that may be desired."

The county's response also says that the county is "not required to wait for a traffic accident to justify it's safety regulations."

An attorney for Fernandez, Beavis Schock, told KMOX earlier that holding a sign asking for money is the same as holding a sign that says "impeach the president."

But in its response, the county claims that Fernandez is engaging in "commercial " speech, which it says it has the right to regulate.

Schock asked the court to immediately stop the county from enforcing its ordinance, even before the case goes to trial. 

In its response, the county warns that 39 other county ordinances could be affected by such a ruling. The county is asking the judge to leave the ordinance in place until Fernandez can have his day in court on the larger case.

Reporting from Kevin Killeen of our partner station, KMOX.

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