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Should “Aggressive” Panhandlers be Fined?

Mar 28, 2016, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

Recent Michigan legislation is bringing attention to “aggressive solicitation” by targeting panhandlers who make aggressive requests for goods or money. While many Michigan cities have their own ordinances on where and how panhandlers can go about solicitation, this bill would prohibit aggressive forms of panhandling statewide.

Under House Bill 5103, those in violation of the proposed Aggressive Solicitation Prohibition Act could face a $100 fine for aggressive solicitation. Proponents of the bill believe that such legislation will help to reduce the incidence of aggressive panhandling across The Great Lake State. But opponents of the bill argue that the law isn’t helping to alleviate the underlying causes of aggressive panhandling, such as panhandlers’ lack of access to mental health resources. They believe that criminalizing panhandlers will only lead to more problems for the state, including increased rates of incarceration, not fewer.

What Is “Aggressive Solicitation”?

Under House Bill 5103, confrontational and overly forceful behavior by panhandlers could lead to a $100 fine. Prohibited behavior ranges from physical to psychological types of aggression, including:

  • Following — following a person in a way that would cause that person to fear for his or her physical safety
  • Intimidating — approaching a person in a way that would cause that person to feel intimidated into responding positively to solicitation
  • Non-stop soliciting — repeatedly asking a person for goods or money even after that person has communicated his or her refusal
  • Obstructing — barring the pathway of a person or requiring that person to take an alternate route to avoid physical contact
  • Physically contacting — making physical contact with a person without that person’s consent
  • Vulgar Name Calling — using obscene language in a way that would cause a person to fear for his or her physical safety

Arguments For and Against House Bill 5103

Those in favor of House Bill 5103 believe that prohibiting aggressive solicitation will lead to safer streets and happier pedestrians. While existing laws in Michigan could be applied to many of the situations described above, many people don’t call 911 to report incidence of aggressive panhandling. Those in favor of the legislation believe that House Bill 5103 would take the onus off of pedestrians and allow officers to conduct operations to stop aggressive solicitation where and when it occurs.

Opponents, on the other hand, believe that fining aggressive panhandlers would only add a burden to the state’s criminal justice system. By fining people who don’t have any money to begin with, the state would be setting itself up for putting panhandlers in county jails at a substantial cost to taxpayers. Instead, opponents of House Bill 5103 advocate for providing greater access to mental health resources for panhandlers, many of whom face mental illness, in order to help empower panhandlers to get off the streets entirely.

How the Skilled Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys at Davis Law Group Can Help You

House Bill 5103 raises important questions about the safety of public places, the behavior of panhandlers in Michigan, and the role of the state in monitoring aggressive solicitation. While the hearings surrounding House Bill 5103 will bring light to these questions, it is unlikely that House Bill 5013 itself will provide a long-term solution to the problem of aggressive panhandling. For comprehensive panhandling reform to occur, legislatures will need to consider not just how to make Michigan streets safer for pedestrians, but also how to improve the lives of Michigan’s panhandlers.

If you’ve been charged with a panhandling crime in Michigan—or any criminal offense—and are seeking representation, contact one of our skilled Michigan criminal defense attorneys at Davis Law Group at (313) 818-3238 today.



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