Panhandling in Jacksonville to become officially illegal: fines for both the person giving the money and accepting it

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Item 2022-0574, which is the name of the panhandling law in Jacksonville, was passed by the city’s neighborhood committee. The next step is for it to go to the city council.

The law, which was passed in July 2022, would make it illegal to beg for money in the city, and it would cost both the person who gave the money and the person who took it. But the bill has been criticized by people who say it hurts poor or homeless people. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Councilman Al Ferraro, talked to First Coast News about the ordinance. He said it was about public safety.

Ferraro said, “What we’re trying to do is make sure that people going through intersections won’t be bothered by people pulling on their door handles or walking children, animals, or pets around their car. We want to make sure that people going through intersections can do so safely.”

The panhandling ordinance would make it illegal for people to ask for money while standing in the middle of the road for a long time.

It would also be against the law to touch or talk to someone on the roads.

The law was made because of the number of accidents between cars and pedestrians in Duval County. Between 2018 and 2021, there were almost 500 car accidents in which people were hurt.

A recent study by the Florida Department of Transportation found that Jacksonville had the sixth most pedestrian deaths of any city in the country.

A. Wellington Barlow, a lawyer in Jacksonville, thinks the ordinance violates the first amendment and is a political attack on homeless people in the city. He says that there is a safety problem, but that it has been that way in the city for years. He said that the law was hypocritical.

Barlow said, “If this passes, it will cost the city a lot of money.” “It’s blatantly hypocritical that you make an exception for firefighters.”

First responders would not be affected by the law against panhandling. During the meeting of the neighborhood committee, one of the changes to the bill was that people would need a permit to ask people for money. Also, they would have to show that they are at least 18 years old. Barlow thinks that Ferraro’s law is a political move because he is running for mayor.

Barlow added, “The average homeless person holding a sign is very polite because they need to eat.”

The criticism was heard by Councilman Ferraro. According to the councilman, the law would punish aggressive people who ask for money. He said “If you think you’re helping someone with an addiction or a mental illness by giving them money at an intersection while cars go by at 35, 45, or 55 miles per hour, you’re wrong. It isn’t.”

If this bill is passed by the city council, the city will give a warning for the first 30 days. The police can give up to three warnings. Then, both the driver and the person asking for money would get a ticket for up to $100.

Lowell Bowen

From the time he was 8 years old Lowell knew he wanted to be on TV. Well, as people say one thing leads to another, that's how Lowell started his career in the news industry. Lowell has been part of The South Florida Daily since the very beginning.

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