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Sandy wins lawsuit filed by panhandler over standing in street medians

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has upheld an ordinance passed by Sandy designed to crack down on panhandling.

In a ruling obtained by FOX 13 on Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Jenkins upheld the ordinance and dismissed a lawsuit leveled by Steve Evans, a panhandler who was repeatedly cited under the ordinance.

Steve Evans, a panhandler who is suing Sandy City, leaves court with his attorney, Angela Elmore. (Image by Evan Huddle, FOX 13 News)

The ordinance blocked people from standing on a median less than 36-inches wide. Evans sued, arguing the ordinance targeted panhandling and his constitutionally-protected free speech rights. Evans, represented by the Utah Legal Clinic, went to court asking the judge to block Sandy from enforcing the ordinance.

But in his ruling, Judge Jenkins ruled that the ordinance did not prohibit someone from standing in other publicly accessible spaces like sidewalks or parks. It also was not infringing on free speech rights.

“The undisputed material facts show that the Ordinance on its face is content neutral, regulates conduct not speech, does not classify based on any status, and applies to every person equally,” the judge wrote.

“In addition, the Ordinance applies only to particular medians in Sandy City and does not apply at all to sidewalks, public parks, other public property, or to private property. Sandy City adopted the Ordinance out of concerns related to pedestrian and driver safety.”

Dash cam of an encounter Sandy police had with Steve Evans, who was cited for violating an anti-panhandling ordinance. FOX 13 obtained the video under a public records request.

The judge said Evans was free to stand on sidewalks or other public property to panhandle, but the medians were off limits.

An attorney for Evans did not immediately respond to a request by FOX 13 for comment. A spokeswoman for Sandy City also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Courts have held in the past that panhandling itself is constitutionally-protected free speech.

Read the judge’s ruling here: