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Is Panhandling Illegal?

Is Panhandling Illegal?

Are you curious to know if panhandling is illegal in your state? There are many kinds of laws that have been put in place to regulate or prevent the act of panhandling. Although there are many states have ruled that the act of begging or soliciting charity is protected by the first amendment, there are still many states with laws against panhandling itself.

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What is panhandling? According to Miriam-Webster, the action of panhandling can be defined as referring to someone trying “to stop people on the street to ask for food or money.” It may be considered unconstitutional to have laws against panhandling, but it is also important that the general public is being protected from aggressive begging and harassment. 

There are many different ways that states have defined panhandling as well as the legality of it. Phrases often used include loitering, begging, vagrancy, solicitation and alms. There are also many states that use language like aggressive panhandling. This is a way for states to specify the difference between a needy individual asking others for charity or an individual who is badgering others relentlessly for food or money. 

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As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer. Although the information included in this article has been researched and gathered from reliable penal code sources on the internet, it is important to acknowledge that new legislations are being passed every day. Be mindful of updated panhandling laws and other penal codes like these in your state! 

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Panhandling in Alabama 

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According to the Alabama penal code, it is considered illegal for anyone to loiter according to the following circumstances listed here. This includes remaining or wandering in a public place to beg for food or money from others. Loitering is considered an act of panhandling and violates this penal code.

Vagrancy Law in Arizona

In the state of Arizona, there is a revised statute which states that any person under the age of 18 who is found begging, receiving or gathering charity gifts from others regardless of selling or offering anything for sale in a public space is considered a vagrant. This is another example of panhandling being illegal.

Loitering & Vagrancy in Arkansas

The Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Services code deems that a person who commits the offense of lingering in a public area as loitering, an act of illegal panhandling in this state. According to guidelines found here, any person who commits this act risks getting a class C misdemeanor. Included in the guidelines are the following:

It is illegal to linger in a public area such as a sidewalk, roadway, parking lot, public transportation or private property to ask others for charity or a gift in a harassing or threatening manner. This would include action likely to cause harm to another person or possibly create a traffic accident. There is another Arkansas statutes regarding those who are considered to be vagrants, street beggars, prostitutes or anyone disrupting the peace will be placed on conviction by the city council. Those who commit this crime are punishable by fine or risk jail time not exceeding 30 days.

California Disorderly Conduct Law 

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Under the California Legislative Information penal code 647(c), any person who commits any of the following acts under California Legislative Information penal code, any person who does any of the following acts found here has committed disorderly conduct. This includes any person who talks to another person in any public space for the purpose of begging or asking to receive food, money and more. Each of these circumstances is considered illegal panhandling and any individual who commits this crime risks being charged with a misdemeanor.

Delaware Penal Code

According to the penal code in Delaware’s crimes and criminal procedures, a person is considered guilty of loitering when the individual remains in a public space for the purpose of begging or soliciting money or gifts from others.

Begging in the District of Columbia 

The Code of the District of Columbia states that the act of loitering includes the circumstances found here. There is one specific penal code which states that no person may ask, beg or solicit gifts like money and other things of value in an aggressive manner in any public place.

Examples of this type of illegal panhandling includes: sidewalks, streets, alleys, driveways, parking lots, parks, plazas, buildings, doorways, entrances to buildings, gasoline service stations and the grounds enclosing buildings.

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Florida  Penal Code for Solicitation

In the state of Florida, according to the senate penal code it is considered unlawful for any person to willfully obstruct the free and normal use of any public street, highway or road in order to solicit charity or gifts, including the circumstances found here. Any one who violates this penal code is considered illegally panhandling and is subject to receive a 2nd degree misdemeanor. This can be punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

Although much of Florida finds the restriction of panhandling to be unconstitutional, there are many areas throughout the state that do consider it to be an unlawful act. Maria Mor of The Homeless Voice provides a long list of guidelines that can be found here for each county that has placed restrictions on panhandling.

Aggressive Begging in Hawaii 

According to JUSTIA US Law, in the state of Hawaii it is considered a disorderly conduct offence for a person with the intent to cause physical harm, alarm or recklessly create a public risk. This would include situations considered illegal panhandling found here, as well as obstructing others for the purpose of begging or receiving charity or gifts in any public place.

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Panhandling is Illegal in Indiana 

In Indiana, JUSTIA US Law states that panhandling is illegal. This includes any person who knowingly does any of the following found here, as well as the solicitation of others on a street or public space and requests something of value or a monetary donation. This is considered a class C misdemeanor which is punishable up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Louisiana Code for Vagrancy & Begging

Louisiana has a penal code regarding Vagrancy, found on JUSTIA US Law, which states that a person or persons shall be guilty of vagrancy based on the following circumstances found here. Included in the list of examples for panhandling illegally is any able bodied person who begs or solicits charity from others.

Louisiana also has a penal code regarding vagrancy, found on JUSTIA US Law, which states that a person is guilty of vagrancy based on the circumstances found here. This penal code specifically includes any able bodied person who begs or solicits others for charity or donations. Whoever commits this crime will risk being fined up to $200 or being imprisoned for up to 6 months. Sometimes individuals are charged with both.

It is also considered a crime of solicitation in the Louisiana Revised Statutes that on an interstate highway, if a person attempts to intentionally solicit, beg, panhandle or request charity of value from anyone on the interstate, entrance ramp or exit ramp. If an individual is convicted of this crime, they will risk facing a fine of $200, imprisonment up to 6 months or both. 

Massachusetts Ruling for Begging

The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has ruled that any person who commits any of the acts found here for the purpose of begging or to receive charity or donations without a license to do so are considered tramps. This includes those who wander and beg, or those who are going door to door in public or private areas. These individuals are considered vagrant and may be punished by imprisonment for up to 6 months for committing this illegal crime.

The state of Massachusetts also deems that any person over the age of 17 asking for charity by begging from place to place and lives without working or financial support to be considered a tramp. Upon committing the acts of begging or soliciting others for food, money or other items of value on a freight train without permission violates section 63 of the commonwealth.

Michigan Law for Disorder

In the state of Michigan, any individual is considered a disorderly person if they are vagrant, found begging in a public space or loitering in a public space according to the state penal code, according to the state legislature.

Solicitation Law in Minnesota

The Minnesota Legislature penal code for Hitchhiking and the Solicitation of business states no person shall stand on a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment, business or contributions from the occupants of any vehicle on the roadway. This is an act of illegal panhandling in this state.

Under Minnesota Legislature, individuals are guilty of committing an act of vagrancy, which is a misdemeanor, if they are found loitering near any public space, in the street or in a place open to the public with the intention of soliciting or begging others.

Vagrants in Mississippi

Individuals will be punished as vagrants in the state of Mississippi if they are an able-bodied person who chooses to beg and loiter to support themselves rather than finding the means to make a living through employment opportunities, according to Justia Law.

In another 2013 statute, any male over the age of 16, and is considered an able-bodied individual, who choose to go about from place to place in order to beg and solicit charity from others are considered tramps.

Nebraska Legislation for Vagrancy

The Nebraska Legislature also has a penal code for Vagrancy. Under circumstances found here, it is considered an offense against public morals and is punishable. It is considered punishable if any person including vagrants, tramps or common street beggars to commit examples of the illegal act of panhandling.

New Jersey Statute for Charity to Beggars

The New Jersey Statutes penal code states that no person will be allowed to solicit others for charity or donations, business or trade, as well as other examples of illegal panhandling included here in a public area unless they receive authorization from the Port Authority. This specifically includes any area such as: a platform, stairway, station, a waiting room, an air or bus terminal owned by the PA, dock, pier, whard, warehouse, building, structure, shed, waiting room, or marine terminal owned by the PA.

Oklahoma Penal Code for Vagrancy

There is a penal code according to Justia Law in Oklahoma that allows the current governing representative to provide guidelines for arrests, fines and imprisonments of individuals in the cities and towns deemed vagrant.

Aggressive Panhandling in Tennessee

A 2015 statute in Tennessee from Justia Law ruled that a person commits the act of aggressive panhandling if they beg or solicit the donation of money or goods from others based on guidelines found here. Some include intentionally: touching the person; obstructing the path of the person or vehicle involved; following the person they are soliciting; or makes a statement or gesture harmful of that person. 

The first violation is considered a class C misdemeanor, but incidents to follow will be considered a class B misdemeanor. This is punishable by fine, up to 90 days in prison, or both.

Utah Pedestrian Aggression

In the rights and duties of pedestrians, it is considered a violation of the use of the road way by the Utah State Legislature, if a person attempts to solicit money or goods from others in an aggressive manner. This would include public buildings, such as banks during business hours or the automated teller machine at any time of day.

Vagrancy Risk in Vermont

Justia Law has a 2012 statute for Vermont in which vagrants are defined as any person who roams from place to place without the proper means of support and chooses to beg from others for income. These individuals risk imprisonment for up to 6 months as well as being fined up to $100.

West Virginia Legislation for Solicitation

According to the West Virginia Legislature, unlawful panhandling and solicitation is considered a fraudulent crime against the peace. This includes any person who requests donations of money or goods from others under circumstances including pandling at: a public bus or train stop, any public transportation, in a vehicle or on the street or on private property. Some scenarios would also include blocking the path of the other person for donations, following that person and making a statement or gesture considered harmful to the person.

The first offense of this violation is punishable as a misdemeanor and includes a $100 fine. The second offense is also a misdemeanor and includes a fine between $250 and $1000. 

Wisconsin Vagrancy as a Misdemeanor

Vagrancy is defined by the Wisconsin Legislature as including any person who is able-bodied with the physical capabilities to work and chooses to beg for charity and food from others. This is considered a class C misdemeanor in Wisconsin.

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