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Keep Giving this Season; Panhandling is not illegal

In my most recent blog entry, I suggested several ways to give during the holiday season. The purpose was to move us all towards being givers. Do you remember the man on the corner? The one with the cardboard sign? I hope you didn't look past him. He needed your help. I certainly hope you did. But, some folks have asked me about him. They wanted to know if he was commiting a crime by begging (panhandling is the proper term). My answer is no.

As pointed out in this article by Elbert Starks, III, of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, panhandling is not, per se illegal. Panhandling is defined under Indiana Code 35-45-17-1. Pahhandling is a crime. It is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by up to sixty (60) days in jail.

Panhandling, by legal definition, means asking an individual on a street or in another public place by requesting an immediate donation of money or something else of value. It includes making an oral request for money in exchange for playing music, singing or performing. It can also include offering someone an item of minimal value in exchange for money.

Given this definition, many would think the man on the corner would be guilty. But, the law does state that Panhandling does not include an act of passively standing, sitting, performing music, singing, or engaging in another type of performance. So, the man's actions weren't criminal after all. He merely put his pride aside, wrote on a sign, and stood on the corner. Did you help him?

Gregory A. Miller, aFort Wayne Criminal Defense Attorney. I can be reached at (260) 833-7249.