Panhandlers working dangerous intersections could face fines under a bill passed Monday evening by a Charleston planning committee.
People who stand or congregate at high-speed intersections or those near highways or bridges and refuse to clear when ordered could be cited for public nuisance, according to the bill’s text.
“No person or persons shall willfully stand or congregate within 25 feet of an inherently dangerous intersection or highway with the intent of attracting or distracting the attention of the operator of a motor vehicle for any reason,” the bill reads.
An “inherently dangerous intersection or highway” is defined by the bill as any intersection within the city:
- where speed limits are 40 mph or higher
- at entrances and exits to interstate highways
- within a one-block radius of a bridge entry or exit
The city would post signs labeling the intersections and areas where the law applies. The bill would not apply to pedestrians using designated crosswalks.
The bill advances to the city public safety committee. If that panel backs the bill, the Charleston City Council would make the final decision on whether to approve it.
Violating the proposed ordinance would be a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $500. Every day a person fails or refuses to pay the fine would be considered a separate offense, according to the bill’s text.
Three violations within a 12-month period would result in a fine of no more than $500, imprisonment for no more than 10 days, or both.
City Councilman Chad Robinson, who introduced the bill, said by phone Tuesday that the rollout of the ordinance would be educational at the start.
“If this bill would pass, it would be more of an education process, instead of an all-out enforcement process, at the beginning,” Robinson said.
Complaints about people standing, congregating and not paying attention to traffic flow led Robinson to introduce the bill, he said.
“This doesn’t necessarily deal with just panhandling,” he said. “It deals with any and all individuals on corners at these busy intersections.”
Among the issues to be resolved before final passage is whether state-owned roads may be included in the proposed ordinance.
The city’s public safety committee does not have a date scheduled for its next meeting.