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Charleston, South Carolina’s Personal Injury Law and the New Anti-Panhandling Law: What Your Need to Know

Panhandling, or the practice of asking for money while standing in a public area, on a sidewalk, or beside a street, is now against the law in Charleston, South Carolina. Many businesses and communities support the law due its perceived effect of reducing crime and public annoyances. The law can also keep panhandlers off highways, thus possibly reducing the risk of pedestrian injuries due to the practice.

Closeup of a businessman with a tin cup, begging for change.  White background.

Yet, will the new panhandling law have unintended consequences when it comes to personal injury law in Charleston, South Carolina? Personal injury lawyers handle a range of cases, and some may involve accidents involving pedestrians or accidents resulting from driver distraction. The new law raises questions about whether a panhandling pedestrian would receive the same protections as a non-panhandling pedestrian, given that the panhandler would be considered breaking the law.

According to ABC 10 News, the new law makes it illegal for anyone to beg for money on a city street or near a highway. The law also makes it illegal for anyone to give money to a panhandler. The city argues that the new law will allow traffic to flow more freely without obstructions. Drivers who pass money to panhandlers can face fines up to $1,092 and jail time up to 30 days. The law doesn’t apply to panhandling that takes place in a parking lot or in a private driveway.

Could drivers who pass money to panhandlers face more serious consequences if they accidentally hit a panhandler during the exchange? And, does the new law increase possible liabilities for drivers? The actual wording of the law is interesting in that it doesn’t seem to actually make panhandling illegal (despite the media’s claims), but it makes the act of handing out something from a vehicle or taking something from a pedestrian illegal while the vehicle is on a public roadway. Both pedestrian and vehicle can be cited for any such exchange.

The wording of the law is careful. Anti-panhandling laws have come under fire from critics who claim that they interfere with the public’s First Amendment rights. According to a Huffington Post article on the subject, many consider panhandling a protected freedom of speech. Laws that prohibit panhandlers from displaying signs have often failed to hold up in court. Yet, Charleston’s anti-panhandling law doesn’t explicitly prohibit panhandling or restrict freedom of speech. It focuses on driver behavior and pedestrian behavior.

If the law’s constitutionality were brought into question—would it hold up? Only the courts, and time, will tell. However, as it stands, the law may additionally raise some important questions in a personal injury case if a panhandler were to seek damages from a driver. It might come down to a question of whether an actual exchange took place—as this is what is noted as illegal in accordance of the law.

For pedestrians who have been injured—whatever the context—a personal injury law firm like the Drescher Law Firm, L.L.C. can investigate all laws and statutes in Charleston, South Carolina to ensure that justice is served and that rights are adequately protected.

Personal Injury Attorney Profile

Scott Drescher, Personal Injury Lawyer in Charleston SC. imageMr. Drescher's knowledge and experience in the field of personal injury and wrongful death law have made him an outstanding personal injury and wrongful death attorney in South Carolina. He understands the thinking process of juries, due in part to his educational background in psychology and sociology. He is experienced in trying large civil cases, which has helped him become a very successful trial attorney in Charleston and the surrounding areas.
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