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PHOENIX -- A federal judge has ruled that an Arizona law making it a crime to panhandle in public places is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake ruled that the anti-begging provision violated free speech rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona filed a lawsuit against the city of Flagstaff on behalf of a disabled Hopi woman who was arrested for begging in February.

The ACLU says the 77-year-old woman was taken into custody for asking an undercover Flagstaff police officer for $1.25 for bus fare.

Flagstaff adopted a policy in 2008 to remove panhandlers from downtown areas by jailing them early in the day on ``loitering to beg'' charges.

The ACLU says 135 arrests were made by Flagstaff police under that statute between June 2012 and May 2013.

Associated Press,

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