The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that Fall River's ban on begging for money from people in cars is unconstitutional. Police say they will adhere to the decision.

We've all seen them – beggars, who stand in the median or on corners soliciting donations from folks who are held hostage by red lights. They are a blight and should not be allowed. They are also a safety hazard for motorists who have enough to contend with on the road.

WBSM News reports the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the state law banning solicitations by those who claim to be in need is a violation of the First Amendment.

Fall River Police filed over 150 criminal complaints against two panhandlers between 2018-2019 based on a state law that prohibits people from asking for money for their own support on public roads. The case for the beggars was argued by the ACLU.

The debate over begging on public roadways has been ongoing for years. In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court says essentially that if I am going to collect for the Jimmy Fund or sell flowers in support of Veterans Day, then people in need should be allowed to beg for themselves. The big difference, though, is that charities require permitting whereas beggars do not.

I've got a great idea: how about if we ban all solicitations of any kind from the medians and street corners in Massachusetts? I cringe each time I see anyone reaching out or stepping into a crowded roadway. It shouldn't happen under any circumstances.

Roadside solicitations are a menace.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

WBSM-AM/AM 1420 logo
Enter your number to get our free mobile app

More From WBSM-AM/AM 1420