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Charities must stay out of the road when asking for donations

Traffic lights
Thomas Hawk
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says it's against the law to fundraise at stoplights.

Sit at enough stoplights, and chances are you will eventually have a person walk up to your car and ask for money. Firefighters do it for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Knights of Columbus does it. Sometimes they give you little paper flowers or Tootsie Rolls.

But Attorney General Bill Schuette says this violates the Motor Vehicle Code. Schuette says unless money is exchanged for goods or services, the person soliciting is committing a civil infraction.

Charities such as the Knights of Columbus and the Michigan Professional Firefighters Association have made asking motorists for donations part of their yearly fundraising. The Fill the Boot campaign, a collaboration between the Michigan Professional Firefighters and the Muscular Dystrophy Association has been a national tradition since 1954. In Michigan, it has raised over $5 million in the last five years. 

Monty Nye is the liaison between the Michigan Professional Firefighters Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He says the International Association of Firefighters Local has already been told it won’t be allowed to conduct this year’s roadside Fill the Boot campaign.

“That organization alone in the past has raised over $20,000 out there on the weekend for us. So that’s a lot of kids not being able to go to summer camp, a lot of flu shots, these patients aren’t going to get because of this opinion.”

The Attorney General’s opinion also applies to panhandlers.