Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Homeless man beats panhandling ticket

Steve Angel is all smiles outside the courthouse as he chats with his girlfriend, Maryann Cooney (left) and attorney Summer Vecchioli after his panhandling ticket was dismissed.

Standing in the median of a street and holding a sign asking for donations doesn't violate St. Petersburg's panhandling law, a judge has ruled.

Steve Angel, 49, had recived a $73.50 citation for "conducting business on median."

But as Summer Vecchioli, Angel's attorney, pointed out, panhandling on a median is perfectly legal under the ordinance* the officer accused Angel of violating. She also got the officer to admit that he hadn't seen Angel walk into the streets or solicit any business. He was just standing on the median, smiling and holding a sign.

After listening to a few minutes of testimony and arguments, Judge William Overton found Angel not guilty.

Read the St. Petersburg Times article here.

What's the lesson here? Get an attorney!
* The ordinance (Section 20-79 of the city code) provides: "Panhandling shall not include the act of passively standing or sitting, performing music,or singing with a sign or other indication that a donation is being sought but without any vocal request other than a response to an inquiry by another person." You can read the entire ordinance here.


At 11:29 AM, Anonymous LaVonne said...

Jackie, I was so pleased when I read this story this morning. Last Saturday while I was traveling down 17-92 I saw some teenagers walking the "median" with their posters trying to raise money for their mission trip. At that time I thought about all the restrictions against free association and all the areas that they touch. Most kids can't do camp, missions or other group outings without funds, and historically they go out into the community, into the streets, to collect from the public. WE MUST preserve our freedoms.


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