Former ASU Student Appeals Trespassing Conviction for Handing Out Copies of US Constitution

Former Arizona State University (ASU) student Tim Tizon filed an appeal Thursday after being convicted for trespassing while handing out copies of the Constitution on the ASU campus. Reilly Stephens, a staff attorney at the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center (LJC), who represents Tizon, told The Arizona Sun Times this appeal is all about protecting First Amendment Rights.

“For us [the LJC], the core idea here is pretty straightforward. If the First Amendment’s going to mean anything, it means that at the public spaces of a public university, a student should not be arrested for handing out copies of the constitution,” said Stephens via the phone. “What could be a more basic free speech principle than that?”

However, a spokesperson for ASU told The Sun Times via email that Tizon’s arrest was not because he was passing out Constitutions. Instead, the spokesperson stated that Tizon had set up a table in an area reserved for student and organization tabling events without getting the necessary reservation first. Tizon was allegedly given multiple opportunities to relocate before being arrested by campus police after refusing.

Yet, Stephens told The Sun Times that with or without a table, the First Amendment arguments should still apply.

According to the appeal, Tizon was a student at the time of his arrest and a member of the university’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) student organization. When confronted after setting up the table, Tizon was told he could either take the table down or go to an isolated area on campus to continue without a reservation.

“Universities are supposed to be the epicenter of the marketplace of ideas,” said Tizon. “ASU has let me down and every other student too by placing its bureaucracy ahead of our First Amendment rights.”

The trial court ultimately sided with the state because the university had given Tizon options to continue. The court sentenced him to pay a $300 fine and perform 15 hours of community service. Now, the Defendants are seeking a sentence reversal on two grounds: that he was lawfully present on the ASU campus and that a constitutional right “is a complete defense to a criminal charge.”

The organization pointed to the Arizona Forum Act (AFA), which prohibits a university from restricting a student’s right to speak. A university cannot “impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student speech that occurs in a public forum” unless the restriction meets six criteria outlined by the law. The Defendants argued that ASU failed to meet “at least four criteria.” Under Arizona law,  a person commits criminal trespassing by “entering or remaining unlawfully on any real property” after law enforcement has reasonably requested them to leave. The Defendants argued that because of the AFA, Tizon was not unlawfully on ASU property.

Moreover, the Defendants argued that ASU infringed on Tizon’s constitutionally granted free speech, so “the entire conviction is contradicted by Tim’s rights to free speech.”

Ultimately, the Defendants asked the court to reverse and vacate Tizon’s conviction.

Stephen told The Sun Times that the state will now have to file a response to the appeal, to which the Defendants can submit a response brief. He said the appeals process might be completed sometime in the spring. If the court sides with the Defendants, then the sentencing is reversed, but if the court sides with the state, the Defendants can take the case to the Arizona Supreme Court. Stephen said that the LCJ hopes a victory, in this case, would discourage public universities from making similar arrests in the future.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Timothy Tizon” by Timothy Tizon. Background Photo “Courtroom” by Carol M. Highsmith.


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One Thought to “Former ASU Student Appeals Trespassing Conviction for Handing Out Copies of US Constitution”

  1. Thomas Robertson

    Why would parents send their kids to a college like this. What nonsense.

    “Sorry Mr. Tizon. It appears you have failed to get a reservation at the coveted Student and Organization Table Area (SOTA). If you don’t accept our remote-location offer, we will have you removed by armed security/police officers from the campus of the school you are attending and paying for.”

    “No, it’s too late now to be asking for a SOTA reservation. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t spray-painted the Administration Building, set any fires, thrown any rocks, burned any flags, or assaulted any students; you are simply too late to get a SOTA reservation now. So take that, you dangerous, reservation-less, Constitution-clutching. MAGAWT rebel! No free speech for you today!” “Hands behind your back, Scumbag.”