Since You Asked: Panhandling is OK just about anywhere in Yuba-Sutter
Q : Where can I panhandle in Yuba and Sutter counties?
A: You can beg for change just about anywhere — if you're not overly aggressive about it.
The issue came up recently when Jaxsen Sikorski, a full-time electrician from Woodland, came to Marysville and Yuba City with his family to ask locals for money that he readily admitted he didn't really need.
"I'm an able-bodied person — I just want free money," Sikorski's sign read.
Sikorski claimed that local business owners and police forced him to move along under threat of arrest, though he believed he was within his rights to stand and beg for money.
"Just about everyone that panhandles is just looking for a free handout. I'm just honest enough to admit it," Jaxsen argued.
Some people thought his signs were funny and gave him a dollar or two. Others were offended that Sikorski had his 12-year-old nephew, Evan, by his side.
Evan had his own sign reading, "Why lie, I love money. I could work, but this is easier."
Sikorski's nephew said he regularly cuts lawns for money, but said asking for handouts was a lot more fun.
Whatever you think of Sikorski's approach, there are many people in desperate situations that don't have many other options.
While panhandling is basically legal, there are some fairly obvious exceptions about where you can stand while asking for handouts.
For example, standing in the passing lane of highway to demand pocket change from speeding drivers is specifically prohibited by state law.
There are also limits to the methods that panhandlers can use when asking.
Panhandlers are allowed to stand on a spot in public with signs "inviting" people to donate money, according to California Penal Code section 674(c).
"I interpret the law to mean that standing or sitting in one spot with a sign asking for money would be protected under freedom of speech," Deputy Sutter County District Attorney Cameron King explained.
State law specifically bans panhandlers from "approaching or accosting" people for cash.
Local city and county ordinances further prohibit hindering or obstructing a person's "free passage."
In other words, you can hold a sign asking for cash as long as you don't block them from walking or driving away from you.
Shouting, demanding and threatening are considered "aggressive" panhandling and that can be charged as a misdemeanor.
In essence, you can ask for free money, but you can't be a jerk about it.
Since You Asked is published on Mondays. Send questions to reporter Rob Parsons at the Appeal-Democrat, 1530 Ellis Lake Drive, Marysville, CA 95901, email him at rparsons@ appeal democrat.com or call 749-4785.