Colorado Rights Blog


  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

ACLU demands that Manitou Springs dismiss unconstitutional panhandling charges against Texas musician

Invoking right of free expression, ACLU demands that Manitou Springs dismiss criminal charges filed against Texas musician under unconstitutional ordinance forbidding ‘panhandling’

CONTACT: Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, 303-777-5482 x114

In a letter sent today to the City of Manitou Springs prosecuting attorney, the ACLU of Colorado relied on the constitutional right of free expression in demanding that the city dismiss criminal charges filed against a Texas musician accused of violating an unconstitutional city ordinance forbidding “panhandling.”

“Last spring, the Manitou Springs City Attorney correctly advised the City Council that the city’s blanket ban on ‘panhandling’ everywhere in the city is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The council declined to take any action. Now the city is prosecuting our client and others for allegedly violating an ordinance that the city’s own legal advisor acknowledges is unconstitutional.”

The Manitou Springs ordinance defines “panhandling” as the solicitation of money or other things of value “where nothing of value is rendered in return.” The ordinance makes it a criminal offense to solicit or “panhandle” anywhere in the city, either on public or private property.

“Our client was carrying a guitar; he was not panhandling,” Silverstein explained. “Even if our client had been playing music and peacefully requesting donations, however, that activity is expression that is protected by the First Amendment. The City of Manitou Springs cannot constitutionally enforce this blanket ban on the peaceful and harmless activities it has wrongly defined as a criminal offense.”

The charge against the ACLU’s client was based on a citizen complaint signed by Nancy Sage Barnes, who has served on the Manitou Springs Economic Development Council and was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 2007 and 2009.

Silverstein said the ACLU’s client has a court date on November 17 and will have to travel from his home in Texas unless the charges are dropped before then. The ACLU asked the city’s prosecutor to respond by November 9, and it also asked that the prosecutor dismiss charges against any other persons who are currently facing ”panhandling” charges under the defective ordinance.

In a separate letter invoking the Colorado open records laws, the ACLU asked the City of Manitou Springs to provide copies of all citations issued in the last two years for violation of the unconstitutional panhandling ordinance.

About the ACLU of Colorado
The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the principles of the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy and public education.  The ACLU Foundation of Colorado works to protect the rights of all Coloradans.

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