Grace period ends for law aimed to stop panhandling in Duval County roadways

Officers can now issue warnings, fines, and make arrests

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local law enforcement can now begin enforcing a new Duval County ordinance designed to stop panhandling in medians, along sidewalks, and in public rights-of-way along roadways.

The City Council approved the ordinance last month but established a 30-day grace period for pedestrians and drivers, both of whom now face fines and even arrest if they violate the law because the grace period has just ended.

While the law was designed to stop pedestrians from slowing traffic, walking in and out of cars and creating dangerous road conditions, drivers are also on the hook if they pass money or anything else to a pedestrian while they idle in the roadway.

We spoke with Officer Christian Hancock with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office about enforcement of the new law.

“So the first offense would be a warning. We would document that offense and put it into a database that is kept by the department so if another officer approaches them the next day or a time later then they can run that individual, if they’ve been warned once, they get that second warning and then the third infraction warning is where we can either warn them again or we can cite them,” he explained.

The third offense carries a fine of up to $100. A fourth offense could result in an arrest.

The City Council created the ordinance based on complaints from the public and statistics that indicate Jacksonville is considered the sixth worst city in the country for pedestrian deaths involving vehicles. The latest numbers from the Florida Department of Transportation show 492 vehicle/pedestrian crashes between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. Of those, 48 pedestrians were killed. In 2018, there were 471 vehicle/pedestrian crashes, in which 34 people died.

The City Council says this new law does not mean people cannot ask for money, they just cannot do it in or along roadways.

Hancock said at the end of the day it is about safety.

“The individuals cause a disturbance in the street, they’re holding up traffic, and we’ve worked several crashes involving them, and fatalities. We’re trying to make the streets a safer place to go,” he said.

There is an exception to the new law for charitable organizations. They can solicit money from drivers in rights-of-way, but they have to apply for a permit from the city of Jacksonville’s public works office.

Among the requirements, they will be required to provide proof of their nonprofit status, like a registration number, they can only apply twice a calendar year, no one under 18 years old will be allowed to solicit money, and if the group gets caught asking for money without a permit, it could be fined up to $250.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.