Ask an Officer: Panhandling, Private Signs
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Question: Why are people, supposedly homeless, allowed to panhandle at major intersections in Prince William County? This is a terrible safety concern. I can remember when the fire departments did this and could not believe they were allowed to do it, but since then, haven't seen them around for a while. There's enough to watch for besides someone in the median.
Answer: Panhandling on a state-maintained highway and any pedestrian in the median area of a state maintained highway is illegal and not permitted. Officers do enforce the ordinance and some offenders have been repeatedly cited. A proposal is being explored to strengthen the existing ordinance. If you see this occurring, please contact our non-emergency line at 703-792-6500. See county code section below which has been broken down to answer your specific question. There is more in the code section available online.
Sec. 16-55. - Panhandling
(a) Definitions. The following words and phrases, when used in this section, shall have the following meanings:
Panhandle or panhandling shall mean doing any of the following acts:
(1) Begging, soliciting or asking for any item of value, monetary or otherwise;
(2) Attempting to sell an item or service for an amount far exceeding its value, or an item or service that is already offered or available at no charge to the general public; or
(3) Attempting to obtain compensation for an item or service under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the purchase is in substance a donation.
Travel lane means the portion of a public street over which motor vehicles travel.
(b) Prohibited acts. It shall be unlawful for any person while in the county:
(3) To panhandle, while standing or otherwise present in a median or travel lane, from any operator or occupant of a motor vehicle located in a travel lane.
(c) Penalty. Any person convicted of violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Question: I have been told by several of my friends (none of whom are government employees or officials) that it is illegal to put up generic signs on Old Bridge Road pointing to a school or religious building on a side road off of the main road. I am thinking of the kind of signs that do exist for the library and signs that say "FOOD" in Tacketts Mill. To my way of thinking these signs would not be requiring anybody to use the buildings, just indicating their location.
Is there any truth to the comments of my friends and if so what ‘truth’ (i.e. please state the law or legal opinion)?
Answer: Generally, private signs or signs for advertising purposes are prohibited by state law. Certain “generic” guide signs are publically maintained, such as directional signs to a library or a school. Certain privately-maintained guide signs are allowed, but only under a specific VDOT permit.