FJI Settles with Miami to Repeal Anti-Panhandling Law

February 29, 2024

MIAMI— The Florida Justice Institute (FJI), a nonprofit civil rights litigation and advocacy organization, has reached a settlement with the City of Miami to resolve its lawsuit against the City challenging an Ordinance that prohibits requesting donations in large portions of the City, including most of the downtown area.   Under the settlement, the City will repeal the Ordinance and pay $45,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

“We’re glad that people will no longer be arrested for simply requesting donations,” said Ray Taseff, lead attorney with FJI.  “This will avoid dozens of needless arrests of poor people asking for money to contribute to their survival.”

In the last year, nearly a dozen homeless people have been arrested or cited for violating this ordinance.  Because solicitation of donations is protected speech, the suit sought an immediate declaration that the law violated the First Amendment.  In response, the City quickly moved to repeal the Ordinance and sought to engage in a settlement.

This same ordinance was previously declared unconstitutional by a state court in a 2017 criminal prosecution, in a case entitled State v. Toombs.  Despite this Court order, the City last year resumed arresting people for panhandling.

The Plaintiff is Willie White, a long-time Miami resident who was experiencing homelessness.  He would peacefully request donations from pedestrians and drivers to help with his survival, but had been arrested twice under the Ordinance.  As a result of FJI’s advocacy, Mr. White is now receiving public benefits, and getting much-needed medical care, that will allow him to obtain housing in the future. It is this compassionate approach, rather than criminalization, that will help address homelessness across the country.

This lawsuit is part of FJI’s effort to end the criminalization of poverty in the state of Florida.  The attorneys have also filed similar successful lawsuits against Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Hollywood, Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, and Columbia County.

The case is White v. City of Miami, Case No. 23-CV-24783 in the Southern District of Florida. For more information, contact Ray Taseff,, 305-586-4502

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