ⓘ Aggressive panhandling


ⓘ Aggressive panhandling

Aggressive panhandling is a legal term for unlawful forms of public begging. Proponents of such legislation advocate placing limits on these activities. Some opponents lament what they perceive to be the "criminalization of homelessness" and argue that such laws are discriminatory or unevenly enforced.


1. Description

In general, aggressive panhandling is a solicitation made in person for immediate donation of money or other gratuity. This may be done by vocal appeal, sympathy appeals, harassment, threats, or demands) or by nonvocal appeal. It is a habitual manipulative, coercive, or intimidatory use of another individuals sympathy, fear, guilt, or insecurity for monetary gain.


2. Aggressive panhandling as a social problem

Helen Hershkoff claims legal restrictions on panhandlers activities are "unconstitutionally vague, overbroad and deprive the homeless of their right to free speech".

Conversely, Roger Conner asserts that "Aggressive begging is not common panhandling. It is uncommon panhandling, a type of harassment bordering on extortion that is practiced by a minority of street people."


3. Aggressive panhandling in US law

The definition of aggressive panhandling is given by city and county ordinances as well as state statutes.

For example, according to the Bloomington, Indiana website, panhandling is "a growing social and public safety concern faced by cities of all sizes, including Bloomington. Many panhandlers passively ask for money or hold a sign. Others are much more aggressive, making noise, sometimes repeated demands and choose to solicit in places that are particularly intimidating such as near automated teller machines, in a restroom or near your car. This is considered aggressive panhandling and in Indiana it is against the law."

Constitutional lawyers, including but not limited to the American Civil Liberties Union, have secured a series of court decisions confirming their view that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects activities which some local ordinances have attempted to proscribe as illegal panhandling. In response, many jurisdictions have responded by narrowing the definition of illegal panhandling. The generally accepted terminology is to denominate such activity as aggressive panhandling.

In 1991 and 1992, federal courts overturned New York and California state laws that made aggressive panhandling illegal. It was observed that "Groups and individuals all over the United States engage in highly public fundraising for all sorts of causes and charities."

Restrictions defining solicitation or panhandling as aggressive regard both manner and context. A typical ordinance is one from Longview, Washington:

9.23.030 Place of panhandling – Violation. It shall be unlawful for any person to panhandle when the person solicited is in any of the following places within the city limits of Longview, Washington:

  • In any vehicle on a street or on a driveway providing ingress or egress to a street where such driveway is open to the general public; or
  • Within 50 feet of any automated teller machine ATM; or
  • At any bus stop; or
  • On private property, unless the panhandler is in physical possession of written permission from the owner or lawful occupant thereof. Ord. 3051 § 2, 2008.
  • In any public transportation vehicle or facility; or

9.23.040 Manner of panhandling – Violation. It shall be unlawful for any person to panhandle in any of the following manners:

  • By soliciting anyone under the age of 16; or
  • By intentionally coming within three feet of the person solicited, unless that person has indicated that he or she does wish to make a donation; or
  • By intentionally obstructing the passage through the entrance or exit of any building; or
  • By using profane or abusive language, either during the solicitation or following a refusal. Ord. 3051 § 2, 2008.
  • By intentionally obstructing the path of the person or vehicle of the person solicited; or
  • By following a person who walks away from the panhandler, if the panhandler’s conduct is intended to or is reasonably likely to intimidate the person being solicited into responding affirmatively to the solicitation; or


4. Panhandling constrictions

South Africa

Begging on street corners is illegal in South Africa although not enforced.

United Kingdom

Although begging is illegal, it does not carry a jail sentence under the Vagrancy Act of 1824. However, individual aggressive beggars may be subject to court injunction and jail.


4.1. Panhandling constrictions Canada

The province of Ontario introduced its Safe Streets Act in 1999 to restrict specific kinds of begging, particularly certain narrowly defined cases of "aggressive" or abusive panhandling. In 2001 this law survived a court challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The law was further upheld by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in January 2007.


4.2. Panhandling constrictions Finland

Solicitation of money on the street has been legal in Finland since at least 1987, when the Poor Law was invalidated. In 2003, the Public Order Act replaced any local government rules and completely decriminalized begging.


4.3. Panhandling constrictions France

By law n° 2003-239 of 18 March 2003, "aggressive begging" mendicite agressive, i. e. soliciting others to hand over of money, valuables or any property on a public thoroughfare in a group in an aggressive manner, or with the threat of a dangerous animal, is punished by up to six months imprisonment and by a fine up to €3750.


4.4. Panhandling constrictions United Kingdom

Although begging is illegal, it does not carry a jail sentence under the Vagrancy Act of 1824. However, individual aggressive beggars may be subject to court injunction and jail.


4.5. Panhandling constrictions United States

In 2004, the city of Orlando, Florida passed an ordinance Orlando Municipal Code section 43.86 requiring panhandlers to obtain a permit from the municipal police department. The ordinance further makes it a crime to panhandle in the commercial core of downtown Orlando, as well as within 50 feet of any bank or automated teller machine. It is also considered a crime in Orlando for panhandlers to make false or untrue statements, or to disguise themselves, to solicit money, and to use money obtained for a claim of a specific purpose e.g. food to be spent on anything else e.g. malt liquor.

  • pressing police to reduce public drunkenness, urination, littering, aggressive panhandling and other quality - of - life issues in the neighborhood. At the same
  • location such as a shrub or tree. Both males and females of any age aggressively defend feeding locations within his or her territory. Females lay two
  • Great Britain for having offered such feeble resistance to American aggressiveness The circumstances surrounding the settlement of the dispute produced
  • have it privately operated and amendments to bylaws to target aggressive panhandling As a director on the board of the Capital Regional District, Fleming
  • exposed him to criticism after the homeless were described to be aggressively panhandling visitors. As a compromise, in July of that year, Agnos ordered
  • Cars, an early version of bumper cars. Indianola also became much more aggressive in advertising and promotions, aiming to create a clean and orderly park
  • raids led to the election in 1838 of Mirabeau B. Lamar who favored a more aggressive approach. The massacre of 35 Comanche chiefs attending a peace conference

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