It is common in many cities to be stopped at a traffic light and see a swarm of children wandering between cars asking for money for various "causes." They often claim the money goes to support their school's sports team or glee club in the hopes of financing travel to some remote championship competition. Other times, the request is unclear -- it is simply a kid in the street wearing a football jersey holding a bucket and asking for loose change.
Sadly, minors are often left unsupervised in our city's busiest intersections trying to collect money. Many argue that kids have no other way to fund expensive extracurricular activities. However, as a Miami personal injury lawyer, I have investigated hundreds of cases where pedestrians have been injured or killed just crossing the street. Allowing children to stand between a rush hour traffic jam, dodging drivers distracted by cell phones and texting simply to raise money, is a tragedy in the making.
In Florida, soliciting money in traffic is not just dangerous, it is illegal. Florida Statute §316.2045 prohibits any person from even approaching a motor vehicle or impeding the safe flow of traffic. And any minor who violates this law is subject to punishment pursuant Florida's Motor Vehicle Code §318.143.
Street fundraising can easily be classified as panhandling. Some U.S. cities require a permit and restrict it to certain designated areas. However, Miami-Dade County does not issue licenses or permits for panhandling. In 2011, according to the Miami Beach Police Department, only 17 arrests were made for street panhandling. But violations are on the rise, and last year, 131 arrests were made.
Occasionally, solicitors have been known to become aggressive when drivers refuse to donate. According to Miami-Dade County regulations, Article IV, Sec 21-31.4, aggressive or obstructive "panhandling" is prohibited. A first-time conviction for can result in up to 30 days of prison and a fine.
Legitimate organizations like the Girl Scouts traditionally set up tables outside storefronts and supermarkets to raise funds. However, it is often difficult to verify where donations go when given to those on the street. The Florida Department of Agriculture is responsible for regulating charitable organizations, requiring the full disclosure of certain information from anyone who solicits contributions. Its website has a link to verify the authenticity of any charity.
Due to the danger, potential legal implications and questionable use of donations, I strongly urge parents and schools to prohibit students from fundraising in traffic. It is much safer for both children and drivers if fundraising is limited to car washes and bake sales.
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