Brooklyn Law Review


Recently, New York and other cities have taken steps to regulate panhandling activity in their communities. These regulations are informed by Broken Windows policing, which emphasizes addressing quality-of-life issues as a strategy for reducing crime. Yet government-imposed limitations on panhandling raise concerns about whether such measures violate panhandlers’ First Amendment rights. This note explores whether it is possible to separate the act of panhandling—defined as approaching a stranger in public and requesting immediate and gratuitous cash payment for oneself—from expression that is protected by the First Amendment. It concludes that, based on a concurrence from Justice Kennedy in International Society for Krishna Consciousness v. Lee, panhandling regulations should not be viewed as content-based speech restrictions, but rather should receive a lesser level of judicial scrutiny.