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Appeals court: Albuquerque ordinance violates First Amendment

ALBUQUERQUE – A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court’s ruling that an Albuquerque ordinance aimed at curbing panhandling in certain places wasn’t sufficiently narrow to avoid violating First Amendment rights.

The city’s ordinance prohibits pedestrians from congregating close to a highway entrance or ramp, occupying a median considered unsuitable for pedestrians or having an exchange of any kind with somebody in a vehicle in a traffic lane.

The ordinance was challenged in court on behalf of panhandlers, protesters and people who pass out items to the needy.

City officials argued that the restrictions are needed to address pedestrian safety concerns and were narrowly tailored to not restrict speech more than necessary.

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, like a U.S. District Court judge, disagreed, saying that the ordinance’s provisions weren’t sufficiently narrow to conform to the goal of reducing pedestrian-vehicle accidents.