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I. PC 647c: California Panhandling


Legal Definition: PC 647c: “Every person who willfully and maliciously obstructs the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk, or other public place or on or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

II. What does this mean?


Panhandling is illegal in California. Panhandling is commonly referred to as people directly confronting you by begging for money or some other kind of handout. This is also known as soliciting for alms. For you to accost someone would mean there is intimidation, harassment, threats, or some other kind of impropriety by a person trying to get a handout from you.

The charge is not meant to apply to people sitting on the street with a sign asking for money. Instead, the crime focuses on people who aggressively target others by soliciting them for money or handouts.  More passive forms of asking for handouts or money are acceptable, otherwise, they could run afoul of the First Amendment.

This also only applies to public places. Public places are things such as streets or sidewalks, buses or public transportation, parks, or even public parking lots. Private places are not covered under this section, given that panhandling is generally not done in a private residence, since a person generally must be invited into the private property.

III. Penalties


A violation under PC 647c is a misdemeanor-only offense in California, instead of a felony or infraction offense. If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to one year in County Jail. You would have to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also face fines up to $1,000, as well as a stay-away order from the property you were convicted of panhandling in.

This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. You could also face a loss of your Professional License if convicted, and if you are not a legal resident, you could face Deportation in Immigration Court if you were to receive multiple misdemeanor convictions.

IV. Common Defenses


  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Violation of Rights
  3. Insufficient Evidence
  4. Coerced Confessions

Failing to show that you were aggressively panhandling can act as a defense to this charge. An individual simply sitting on a road with a sign or a cup, asking for money, would be passive at best. Here, you would be able to show that you were not trying to harass or intimidate anyone, and cannot be found guilty of panhandling. Failing to show that you were harassing anyone, would mean that there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of the crime.

Also, if police act in violation of your rights, your attorney can argue that the police did an illegal search and seizure, and evidence of your panhandling would be suppressed, meaning your case could possibly be dropped. Here, the argument to be made is the police made unlawful contact with you, such as an illegal arrest that violates your rights. If that were to happen, then your Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney can argue that the illegal arrest means your case should be dismissed or reduced, based on unlawful police contact.

V. Call Today


A conviction under this section can have a devastating aspect on your livelihood. You are likely looking at custody time, loss of freedom, and a criminal record. You are also facing stiff fines and being unable to return to that same area in the future, which can be devastating to a person who may be struggling with finding a permanent residence. Our Ontario PC 647(e) attorney has successfully defended thousands of people in Ontario and throughout Southern California. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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