Ask the Mayor: Is Roadside Panhandling Legal?
Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff.
Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at [email protected], 270-7855 or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.
Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.
Q: There are a number of people—they all look like newcomers—who stand by the roadsides with signs asking for money.
Some of my friends have actually seen these people get into nice cars after they’re done “begging” and one friend saw the same guy cleaned up with a nice aloha shirt putting gas in a car that was nicer than my friend’s!
There’s been a woman with a sign asking for money by the intersection of Ka‘ahumanu Avenue and Beach Road, and yesterday a guy was sitting with a sign right by the Wailuku Bridge on the fire station side; their presence is distracting and I’m wondering if it’s even legal for them to be there.
A: Hawai‘i state law does not restrict panhandling and free speech laws actually protect a person’s right to do so; however, according to our County Code 12.42.030 (“Regulation of signs”), they must refrain from creating a safety hazard by holding a sign on a median strip of a divided highway, on a traffic island, or on a pedestrian or vehicular overpass structure which crosses above or adjacent to any highway.
They also must not display a sign in such a way that it hides from view or interferes with the effectiveness of an official traffic-control device, impedes the vision of drivers or pedestrians on a street, road, or highway by using foils, reflective surfaces, mirrors, or similar light reflecting materials, or by displaying a sign on or adjacent to any street, road, or highway that resembles an official traffic control device, signal or sign, bearing words, symbols, characters, color and/or shape in such a manner as to interfere with, mislead, or confuse pedestrian or vehicular traffic.