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Palm Beach County quits prosecuting panhandlers

in Statewide by

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.

Read the Palm Beach Post report here. (H/t to the 13th Juror)

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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