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Recognizing the Line Between Panhandling and Harassment

Question: Is panhandling considered illegal? Answer: While panhandling isn’t illegal, panhandlers’ actions in the process of asking for money could be. For example, panhandlers cannot threaten or block the sidewalk or a building entrance, or otherwise harass people. Also, if a panhandler asks for money for a specific purpose, such as a cup of coffee, and uses it to buy liquor or cigarettes, it could be considered theft because he or she took the money under false pretenses. Offenses may be classified as disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace or even battery, and legal penalties can range from a warning to jail time.       For more information about Illinois law, visit If you have a legal question, send it to   Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit