Panhandling laws vary significantly based on the city. In Oklahoma City, it is addressed in ordinance 30-428, a detailed examination of the city council's findings on all issues of begging, soliciting and panhandling. To make it a bit simpler, though, here are some frequently asked questions about Oklahoma City panhandling laws.
Is panhandling legal in Oklahoma City?
Yes. Actually, courts have long ruled that cities cannot ban panhandling, as it's a form of free speech. However, it is acceptable to place limits on it, either on location or manner.
What if the panhandler won't leave me alone?
Well, this is one of the limits in the Oklahoma City law. Any form of "aggressive" panhandling is illegal and should be reported. For example, if a person continues to ask for money after you've said no. They are also not allowed to touch you, threaten you, intimidate you or block your way.
Are there any places in which panhandling is not allowed?
Several, in fact. One can't solicit funds within 20 feet of outdoor seating areas, whether at a park, restaurant or any other business. Also banned is panhandling near teller machines, bus stops or pay phones, though I'm not sure there are any of those left. If you're waiting in line, for example for tickets or to get into an establishment, you can't be solicited.
The city council has discussed making it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of an elementary school or school bus stop, but this has not yet been added to the ordinance.
Can people panhandle at night?
No, the Oklahoma City ordinance considers this a type of aggressive panhandling. The law specifies no panhandling thirty minutes before sundown to thirty minutes after sunrise.
What about at a stoplight?
In late 2015, the city council made it illegal for anyone to be in medians within 200 feet of an intersection. The change was controversial. Those for the addendum called the matter a safety concern while others suggested it was an unfair punishment of panhandlers. The law does make exceptions for large medians (at least 30 feet wide) and those with benches or other "public use" elements.
What is the penalty for panhandling in Oklahoma City?
The law allows for a fine of up to $200 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
Can I get a permit to solicit for my organization?
Absolutely. The city has an online citizen's portal where you can register and apply for a charitable solicitations permit. For more information, call the license division at (405) 297-2606.