Most everyone has had the experience of someone asking for money on the street. You may be just stopping for gas or walking into a grocery store when someone approaches you and simply asks you to spare a dollar. You give your answer and move on. Maybe you dig a loose dollar out of your pocket, or you let them know you have nothing to spare. More rare, you may have a different experience where you are approached, perhaps leaving an ATM, and a simple ‘no' is not sufficient for this pushy panhandler. They step forward into your personal space and continue on with one reason or another about why they need the money and how you would really be helping them out, while semi-impeding your ability to leave. In this situation you can feel more than uncomfortable about their persistent and forceful attitude.
The State Legislature has just passed Senate Bill 1094 to outlaw this sort of aggressive panhandling. The bill would make conduct such as repeatedly asking for money after being declined, panhandling within 15 feet of an ATM, and touching someone while begging a petty offense. Senator John Kavanagh says the bill is supposed to lessen the worry or fear associated with aggressive panhandling. Similar bills have been struck down in the past.
In 2013 the law banned panhandling in public across Arizona. A federal judge put a stop to the regulation after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union claiming it criminalized freedom of speech. The group said that peacefully asking for money was a liberty guaranteed under the first amendment. Last year Governor Brewer vetoed similar legislation, calling it an issue of local control. Governor Ducey has not yet said if he will sign Bill 1094 once it reaches his desk. Whether or not the bill is signed if someone is panhandling you should always be cautious and safety conscious.
Jay Ciulla is a Arizona personal injury and wrongful death lawyer.
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