Charleston Bans Panhandlers, Again

Ok, the Holy City didn’t expressly ban panhandlers – that would be unconstitutional, and the courts have already told Charleston they can’t do it.

So instead, earlier this month, Charleston City Council passed an ordinance that bans sitting or lying down on sidewalks. Sitting or lying down on sidewalks is a public safety hazard, therefore the City believes their ban (that clearly targets panhandlers) is now constitutional.

It may be, depending on the level of scrutiny that the courts apply to the ordinance. But, what’s wrong with the ban?

Who is a Nuisance to Whom?

There is obviously tension between panhandlers and business owners who wish their streets could be nice, neat, and orderly.

Business owners don’t want their customers being bothered by homeless people as they walk down the narrow sidewalks and streets to reach their storefront. It conjures an image of well-to-do shoppers, spending their money in Charleston storefronts, cringing in horror as they walk past dirty, vulgar street people who don’t look like them… this may be an age-old problem.

In many cases, it appears that it’s the panhandlers and homeless who are being harassed and not the other way around – like in this article that details a group of Charleston residents harassing panhandlers and accusing the panhandlers of threatening them even as they are making threats on the panhandlers.

Individuals identified in the article were going to the panhandlers, videotaping them, berating them, demanding that they leave, and carrying signs that say, “fake bum” or “do not give these people money.”

Which makes me wonder, who is harassing whom?

Live and Let Live?

Can’t we just get along? Can’t we let people live their lives in their own way, and go about our business living our lives in our own way?

This ordinance, clearly designed to give police reasons to arrest or move panhandlers away from storefronts downtown, is also another shining example of the nanny state that we currently live in, where the government dictates where we go, what we do, and how we do it.

Although the law obviously targets panhandlers and will almost certainly be selectively enforced against panhandlers, it also applies to every person on a Charleston street or sidewalk. Now, we are not allowed to sit or lie on a sidewalk, unless:

  • There is a medical emergency;
  • We are disabled;
  • We are a child in a stroller;
  • We are watching a parade; or
  • We are waiting in line.

Do we really need the government to tell us when we can or cannot sit on a public sidewalk?

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

Hey – I care about Charleston, and I want to keep our downtown streets and sidewalks beautiful. I care about the storefronts and the store owners who make our downtown great.

I also care about the Charlestonians who are not as fortunate as the store owners and politicians, and who do not have the resources to fight back against what has been a prolonged attack on their lifestyle and freedom.

Our law practice is focused on criminal defense cases in the Charleston and Eastern SC area. If you have been charged with a crime, contact Charleston criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone now for a free consultation and review of your case by calling at (843) 808-2100 or by filling out our online contact form.