Times are tough. The cost of living is rising at a rate that few of us ever imagined was possible. As our paychecks become increasingly stretched, it’s natural to consider other ways of making a little money. Panhandling is an option that some people consider.
Not sure what panhandling is? It’s the legal term for begging. Panhandling could net you some money, but it’s also an action that could end with you getting arrested and charged with a misdemeanor
The act of panhandling in California is addressed in California Penal Code 647(c). In addition to a lot of other things that include incidents of public intoxication and prostitution, this law states that anyone, “who accosts other persons in any public place or any place open to the public for the purposes of begging or soliciting alms,” is guilty of panhandling in California.
The really interesting thing about panhandling is that while California has laws that prohibit panhandling, the U.S. government believes that panhandling should be protected by the first amendment. The contrast between state and city laws and the laws laid out in the Constitution have resulted in many people filing lawsuits against their state. As a result of these lawsuits, many states have adopted a policy that allows panhandling in certain situations/locations while prohibiting it in others.
In an effort to not violate the First Amendment and to also limit panhandling, California lawmakers have an unspoken policy that requires the police to leave anyone who is panhandling in a minor way alone. Police officers are encouraged to only bring charges against individuals who are engaged in aggressive solicitation approaches which would include following people while begging, demanding money, knocking on car doors, behaving in a lewd or rude manner when a person doesn’t respond to the panhandling.
Panhandling in California is a misdemeanor offense. While a guilty conviction will appear whenever someone does a criminal background check, it won’t impact your ability to own a gun. If you’re convicted of panhandling in California, the maximum sentence you’ll receive is up to 12 months in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
California’s current law regarding panhandling only applies to individuals who are in public areas. If the panhandling occurs on private property, the property owner will have to decide how to legally handle the situation.