EDISON - Panhandlers in Middle Township must now get a permit in order to solicit money in the Cape May County town, and civil rights groups say the new ordinance is unconstitutional.
The police chief says the permits are free, and the law is intended to curb aggressive panhandlers. Those arrested without a permit face a $250 fine and possible jail time.
Civil rights groups worry that laws like this could pop up all over New Jersey and unfairly target the homeless.
ACLU legal director Ed Barocas says police can only arrest panhandlers who are harassing people for money. "You can't write an ordinance so broadly that an individual needs permission from the government to engage in free speech in the public square," Barocas says.
Many in a Newark soup line told News 12 New Jersey that they supported the idea, and would go along with whatever was required. "If they don't want to get locked up, they'll get the permit," says William Spencer.