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Ask 13: Why is panhandling allowed in Asheville?

"Why is panhandling allowed in Asheville?" Pamela Gaddy wrote Ask 13. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Drive around Asheville and there's a good chance you'll see someone panhandling for money. But is pandhandling legal in the city?

"Why is panhandling allowed in Asheville?" Pamela Gaddy wrote Ask 13.

A lot of cities are moving to scale back bans on panhandling because of a 2015 federal court decision which said some of the laws against panhandling are are unconstitutional.

But the truth is panhandling, begging or soliciting is not allowed in Asheville. It's regulated by a city ordinance. But someone standing off the road with a sign asking for money may actually be protected free speech.

A federal ruling in the case of Browne versus the city of Grand Junction. found the city's panhandling rules violated the solicitor's right to freely express himself. For that reason, cities have been toning down enforcement of their panhandling ordinances..

The city of Asheville's ordinance is spelled out in chapter 11, section 11-5, public solicitation and begging regulated. Under prohibited acts, the ordinance said it's unlawful for any person to beg, solicit or panhandle in a number of circumstances, including:

  • by accosting another or by forcing oneself upon the company of another
  • within 20 feet of the entrance to any financial institution or any automatic teller machine
  • by touching the person without that person's consent
  • or by using any gesture or act intended to cause a reasonable person to be fearful of the solicitor.

These are just some of the situations where begging isn't allowed.

"On the legal side, I can say only that solicitation enjoys a certain level of constitutional protection, and Asheville may only regulate within those legal boundaries," a statement from the Asheville city attorney's office said. "The city, therefore, regulates only the time, place and manner in which people may solicit from others."

So, it's clear the limitations on panhandling are changing, with city's and town's now worried about violating the rights of those doing the panhandling.

If you have a question you'd like answered, write to Ask13@WLOS.com.

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