Elizabeth L. Parker, Esq.
PROSECUTORS KEEP PROMISE, PARDON PANHANDLER The Palm Beach Post May 2010 by Eliot Kleinberg
Prosecutors did Friday what they promised last month: refused to prosecute a panhandler under Florida's besieged "obstructing public streets" statute. West Palm Beach police arrested Roy Lee Alexander, 41, around 9:30 a.m. Thursday after officers found him begging motorists for money in the intersection of Dixie Highway and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. A police report said Alexander, who has been confronted by officers in the past for the same offense, continued to block traffic even after the light had turned green. But in a 15-second court appearance Friday morning, Assistant State Attorney Mary Ann Duggan said, "I'll nolle prosse that." Just like that, the charges against Alexander were dropped. The Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office had challenged the constitutionality of statute 316.2045 after West Palm Beach police arrested Elizabeth Annese, 29, on April 22 as the homeless woman collected money near Palm Beach International Airport. Assistant Public Defender Marie Calla argued the law was intended to protect public safety and said it was unfair to cite Annese, but not groups who collect for charity. She said that amounted to selective enforcement and is unconstitutional. A week later, Chief Assistant State Attorney Elizabeth Parker wrote the public defender that her office no longer would prosecute arrests, saying that "the state concludes that enough doubt exists in the enforceability" of the statute.