Tulsa, OK Criminal Defense & Family Law Blog

Friday, December 25, 2015

Oklahoma City Council Approves Panhandling Limits

What are the prohibitions for panhandling in Oklahoma City?

Poverty and homelessness are becoming increasingly problematic for cities across the nation, and Oklahoma City is no exception. In fact, panhandling has become more and more common in city street medians.

While poverty and begging are not crimes, panhandling in the street can be a public safety issue. With this in mind, the Oklahoma City Council recently adopted new curbs prohibiting most activities on medians within 200 feet of an intersection. Currently, going into the street to panhandle is already against the law.

Opponents of the new ordinance had petitioned the council to delay the measure in order to further study the problems of homelessness and poverty and come up with new public safety strategies related to panhandling. The council based its decision on accident reports provided the Oklahoma City police department.

Some residents argued that this was not a public safety issue, but an effort to stop people from conducting business on the medians, particularly so-called street paper vendors who have been selling the Curbside Chronicle. Moreover, others contend that this is contrary to criminal justice reform measures working their way through the U.S. Congress and that the ordinance amounts to the criminalization of poverty.

The ordinance is designed to rid most medians at intersections of panhandlers seeking handouts from drivers, but the measure will also stop firefighters from collecting money for charity. Nonetheless, similar ordinances have been successful in other cities that have also put into place prohibitions on aggressive panhandling.

However, this measure will place a greater burden on poor people who already have difficulty paying court fines, even though there are diversion programs that prevent them from being jailed. The question remains, however, how the ordinance will be enforced. Still, the issues of poverty and homelessness need to be addressed in other ways so that authorities can focus on more urgent criminal matters.

In any case, whether or not criminal justice reform measures will be implemented remains to be seen. In the meantime, anyone who has been charged with committing a crime needs the advice of a qualified defense attorney.

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