Newport News city council considering repealing panhandling laws

Are laws against panhandling inhibiting freedom of speech?

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) -- Are laws against panhandling inhibiting freedom of speech?

That's what City Council is considering. Newport News is thinking about repealing laws against the controversial activity.

Right now, it is illegal to panhandle in Newport News after sunset or before sunrise, or aggressively.

People who break the law are charged with a class 4 misdemeanor. Getting rid of the ordinance would eliminate that.

The discussion comes after recent federal court decisions deemed panhandling and solicitation free speech.

The Newport News city attorney is recommending scrapping the ordinance to make sure city code adheres to the recent decisions.

The discussion is drawing reaction from Charles Valentine. He’s lived in Newport News 23 years. He gives money to panhandlers from time to time, as long as they don't stop him in a place where he's stopping traffic.

“I don't think the city should get rid of it, but put stipulations,” Valentine says. “They shouldn’t be on the corner’s where people will stop to give them something but then a light will change and an accident could happen.”

Hampton repealed their aggressive panhandling ordinance in March. Just last month, signs went up in Hampton asking people to stop giving money to panhandlers.

Newport News city council plans to discuss repealing these two City Code Chapters Tuesday night during their regular city council meeting.

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