Panhandling Laws in Utah

Utah residents may often be approached on the road or sidewalks by individuals requesting monetary donations and while panhandling is legal, there are laws that need to be followed to avoid citations.


Photo by: Steve Baker

Panhandling is simply defined as approaching and begging from a stranger. Panhandling is often done to obtain money but someone can also beg for other items such as food, clothing, or fuel. Some less fortunate individuals beg for money or food because they are unable to obtain them due to unemployment, mental or emotional illnesses, or other hardships. Sadly, panhandling is also done by those seeing the act as an easy way to get cash tax free. Regardless of the reason for accosting others for handouts, those who approach strangers should be aware of the laws regarding panhandling in Utah.

Begging near banks

Asking strangers for money is not against the law and is protected under the First Amendment freedom of speech clause. Panhandlers should never threaten or assault those who refuse to donate and Utah code 41-6a-1009 warns those soliciting money from others that they are not allowed to “solicit money or goods . . . in an aggressive manner” near a bank or ATM. As long as they are not seen as a danger to others, panhandlers are allowed to beg on the sidewalk or along many smaller Utah roads.

Approaching vehicles

When it comes to soliciting money and food on roadways, Utah Code 41-6a-1009 was updated last year to keep panhandlers away from high speed or high traffic areas. That section now states: “an individual may not impede or block traffic” by “accepting, transacting, exchanging, or otherwise taking possession or control of money or property from a person within a motor vehicle” if they are “on the interstate, freeway, highways or any road that has a “speed limit of 35 miles per hour or higher.” These areas include “shoulder areas . . . ; on-ramps; off-ramps, and an area between the roadways of a divided highway. “

Panhandling penalties

Anyone found panhandling on a busy road or an area described above as being off-limits will receive an infraction. If within one calendar year they are cited three or more times for panhandling in a restricted area, they will face a class C misdemeanor.