Printed on: March 24, 2013
IT'S THE LAW
The legalities of placing fliers
QUESTION: What are the legalities of placing fliers on the windshields of cars? Is this legal as long as it is on public property? If you post these on cars parked on private property (like the Walmart parking lot), is that legal? What are the options of the owner of the parking lot if they want to take action against you for placing fliers?
ANSWER: Placing fliers on windshields of cars is not normally legal. With regard to public property and placing signs in parking lots of government-owned property, such as a park, this depends on the particular city or county ordinances in place.
For example, within the city of Idaho Falls, it is unlawful for any person to "fasten or attach, paint or place, any sign, handbill, poster, advertisement or notice of any kind" on property owned by the city. There are First Amendment rights to being able to protest and hold signs on public property, and even hand out fliers to passers-by. However, actually placing and leaving a flier on a vehicle or anywhere else on public property wouldn't fall within constitutionally protected free speech rights.
In reference to private property parking lots, such as Walmart, or Edwards Theaters (where I personally seem to receive the most fliers on my car), the best way for an owner of the property to prohibit fliers is to post "no solicitation" signs clearly on the property. If the property owner does not catch the person distributing the fliers in the act, you could at least contact the distributor via the information contained on the flier and let them know that if they are caught on the premises again, you will have law enforcement issue them a misdemeanor citation for trespassing.
The city of Idaho Falls also has a general prohibition about placing fliers or signs on personal property, i.e. cars, without the consent of the owner of the personal property. This prohibition is located in Idaho Falls city code Section 7-9-24. Thus, a property owner within the city of Idaho Falls could make a complaint to law enforcement under this city code section.
Another risk for persons placing fliers on cars is if the fliers end up discarded on the public street or sidewalk, then this could be considered littering. Plus, the contact information listed on the flier may let law enforcement know who to fine for littering.
Shan Perry is an attorney practicing in Idaho Falls. This column is provided by the 7th District Bar Association as a public service. Submit questions to "It's the Law," P.O. Box 50130, Idaho Falls, ID 83405; or by email to rfarnam@hold enlegal.com. This column is for general information. Readers with specific legal questions should consult an attorney. A lawyer referral service is provided by calling 334-4500.