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Ask 2: Is it illegal to solicit at traffic stops?

398225 03: A panhandler begs for money December 5, 2001 in downtown Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati is trying to come up with ways to combat the problem of panhandling which they say is keeping people from coming downtown to do their Christmas shopping. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)
398225 03: A panhandler begs for money December 5, 2001 in downtown Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati is trying to come up with ways to combat the problem of panhandling which they say is keeping people from coming downtown to do their Christmas shopping. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images) ((Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images))

At KPRC 2, we’re dedicated to keeping Houstonians informed. As part of our new Ask 2 series, the newsroom will answer your questions about all things Houston.

The question: Is it illegal to solicit at traffic stops?

The answer: A Channel 2 viewer, Atif, wrote to us with this question. In fact, the answer is yes. . . and no. It all depends on distance.

In general, the City of Houston Code of Ordinances, Chapter 1, Article 1, Section 28-46, lists aggressive panhandling as a misdemeanor that is punishable with a fine of up to $500.

The ordinance defines panhandling as “seeking through a communication with another person, whether by gesture or verbally, funds or goods for food, personal favors (such as trips, transportation, clothing, or other), drink, lodging, vehicle fare, or any other purpose to directly benefit an individual or his family members.”

The ordinance covers panhandling in public spaces -- "a street, sidewalk, or other place that is open to the public.” It also forbids panhandling, or soliciting, at ATMs , parking meters, parking fee collection boxes, and transit facilities.

Here is the catch, though. The ordinance stipulates that soliciting is ONLY illegal within eight feet of the person being solicited (the “solicitee”). If a panhandler solicits from a distance greater than eight feet from the solicitee, the action is considered legal.

Do you have a burning H-Town-related question? Send it our way, and we will try to hunt down an answer.

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