Florida Statutes 316.2045 and 337.406 prohibit the solicitation of charitable contributions on Florida roadways; however, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has ruled that both statutes are unconstitutional, and, therefore, unenforceable. The case was brought on behalf of Peter Vigue.
Unwelcome news for lame duck St Johns County Sheriff David B Shoar, as he finds himself defending another lawsuit before he slips out the back door and smiles at presumptive sheriff-elect Robert Hardwick and the county taxpayers who have to stick around and clean up 16-years of his mess.
Although the statutes under which Vigue was arrested were judged to be unconstitutional, they were still being enforced by Shoar and his hyper-militarized gang of traffic-Nazis like ex-deputy sheriff Anthony J Deleo, Jr and deputy sheriff Joseph McGinnis. Vigue was repeatedly arrested by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department and even made to spend time in jail for violating these unconstitutional statutes, according to court records.
Vigue regularly stands at the Palencia entrance and in front of the Publix Market at Cobblestone Village in St. Augustine where he solicits donations from motorists. He is known to hold up signs with “God bless” and “Be safe”. Vigue waved at cars and gave a thumbs up as they passed. He asks for help along the roadside, according to the nonprofit group Southern Legal Counsel.
“The court’s ruling recognized that the challenged statutes unlawfully prohibited Mr. Vigue from asking for help on roadways, which is protected First Amendment expression,” said Kirsten Anderson, litigation director for the Southern Legal Counsel and the lead attorney for the plaintiff. “This decision vindicates that we all share the fundamental right to freedom of speech, no matter who you are or how much money you have.”
In February 2019, Southern Legal Counsel went to court with co-counsel from the National Homelessness Law Center and pro bono assistance from the law firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. Vigue said he only goes onto the roadways when traffic is stopped. Vigue’s legal team successfully argued that Florida Statues 316.2045 “Obstruction of public streets, highways and roads,” does not apply in this case, because Vigue does not “intend to obstruct or otherwise interfere with traffic.”
In September 2019, FHP Director Gene Spaulding came to a settlement with Vigue that limited enforcement of the challenged statutes statewide. FHP also began providing its officers with training and circulated a legal bulletin about removal of portions of the statute from the appendices of Florida’s and Uniform Traffic Citations Manual.