Understanding Memphis' panhandling ordinance

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) -  The city of Memphis wants to crack down on panhandling with a tougher ordinance against offenders.  But what kind of punishment do offenders really get?

The ordinance does not specifically ban all panhandling everywhere, but it does place a list of restrictions on the activity.

For instance, the ordinance does not outlaw the act of standing passively with a sign, as long as it does not specifically address one person.

The ordinance outlaws what's described as "abusive solicitation," which includes seven different characteristics:

  • Coming within three feet of a person, or about an arm's length
  • Blocking passage
  • Following
  • Threatening physical harm
  • Using abusive words intended to provoke
  • Touching
  • Panhandling in prohibited places, which are all spelled out in the ordinance.

The ordinance makes certain types of panhandling a misdemeanor crime.  So, in order to prosecute, an law officer must witness the activity, or someone must file a formal complaint.

Anyone caught begging for money improperly could face arrest, jail time, and/or monetary fines.

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