Gresham vs Peterson Discussion

I’m stuck on a Business Law question and need an explanation.


Regarding the case of Gresham v. Peterson, should there be a different standard for organized charities as opposed to individual beggars under the ordinance? Make sure you back up your position with a legal and factual basis.

The full decision can be found here:
Gresham v. Peterson, 225 F.3d 899 (7th Cir. 2000). Retrieved from


In the case of Gresham v. Peterson, the issue at hand concerns a Chicago ordinance that regulated panhandling. The ordinance prohibited panhandling in certain locations, including near ATMs and on trains, but exempted charitable organizations from its restrictions.

To determine whether there should be a different standard for organized charities as opposed to individual beggars under the ordinance, we must consider legal principles and factual evidence presented in the case.

Legal Basis:

  1. Equal Protection Clause: The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. This means that laws must treat similarly situated individuals or groups equally.
  2. First Amendment Rights: The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, which includes the right to solicit donations or express requests for assistance. Any restrictions on panhandling must be carefully scrutinized to ensure they do not infringe upon individuals’ constitutional rights.

Factual Basis:

  1. Purpose of Charitable Organizations: Organized charities often serve the public interest by providing essential services and support to vulnerable populations. They may have established protocols and accountability measures to ensure that donations are used effectively and ethically.
  2. Vulnerability of Individual Beggars: Individual beggars may be marginalized or economically disadvantaged individuals who rely on panhandling as a means of survival. They may lack access to resources or support systems available to organized charities.

Analysis: Given the legal principles of equal protection and First Amendment rights, treating organized charities differently from individual beggars under the ordinance raises concerns of unequal treatment and potential infringement of constitutional rights. While organized charities may serve noble purposes and have established structures, individual beggars also have the right to engage in protected speech and solicit assistance.

The Chicago ordinance, by exempting charitable organizations from panhandling restrictions while targeting individual beggars, arguably creates a disparate impact on vulnerable individuals without a compelling justification. Such differential treatment may not withstand constitutional scrutiny, as it fails to provide equal protection under the law.

Conclusion: In light of the legal and factual considerations, there should not be a different standard for organized charities as opposed to individual beggars under the ordinance. Both groups are entitled to equal protection of their constitutional rights, including the freedom of speech and equal treatment under the law. Any regulations on panhandling must be carefully crafted to avoid discriminatory impact and uphold individuals’ fundamental rights.

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