Palm Beach County’s state attorney no longer will prosecute panhandlers under the “obstruction of public streets” statute, saying the state law is legally flawed.
The action heads off a hearing on the constitutionality of the law that could have bounced all the way to the state Supreme Court.
West Palm Beach police arrested Elizabeth Annese, 29, on April 22 as the homeless woman collected money near Palm Beach International Airport. She had stepped off the median, violating the law, which makes panhandling on the street a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The next day, Assistant Public Defender Marie Calla filed a motion calling for the law to be declared unconstitutional. Arguing the law was intended to protect public safety, Calla said it was unfair to cite Annese, but not firefighters who hold out boots or school volleyball teams with pails.