Homeless man sues St. Johns County sheriff, FHP director over arrests

A St. Johns County homeless man is suing Sheriff David Shoar and Florida Highway Patrol Director Gene Spaulding over his multiple arrests.

Peter Vigue’s lawsuit says Florida’s panhandling laws violate his constitutional rights.

The St. Johns County jail log shows Vigue has been arrested by deputies and FHP at least 16 times.
St. Johns County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Chuck Mulligan said Vigue has had 10 times that many run-ins with the law.

“We’ve dealt with this individual, since 2013, 165 times,” said Mulligan.

Vigue’s lawsuit was filed by Southern Legal Counsel, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and St. Augustine attorney Rusty Collins.

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“I think there’s an issue that they have with Mr. Vigue. Mr. Vigue actually stands up for himself a little bit. And I think they don’t like that,” said Collins.

Mulligan said Vigue wasn’t just standing on sidewalks asking for money; he was walking into roads and blocking traffic.

“We are balancing the rights of people who are trying to travel on a public roadway versus his rights,” said Mulligan.

Collins denied his client disrupts traffic to collect donations.

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“He will step on the highway only when people are stopped, and (when) they’re stopped at a traffic light or a stop sign,” said Collins.

The lawsuit claims two Florida laws violate Vigue's constitutional rights: one that prohibits obstructing public streets, highways and roads and one that prohibits individuals from asking for donations on public property without a permit.

Vigue has never been arrested in St. Johns County for violating the second law.

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