Outdoor signs, no matter their size, are a big deal. Businesses use signs to advertise products and services, billboard companies lease them, and individuals use them to display political and religious beliefs. All the while, local governments carefully regulate signs to avoid visual clutter and to resolve traffic safety concerns. But signs are unique as a land use, because they implicate the constitutional right of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment.
Every sign is protected by the First Amendment. One of the core requirements of the First Amendment is that government cannot regulate speech on the basis of its viewpoint or subject matter. Government sign regulations that apply different rules based on whether a sign advertises a political issue, new construction, “grand openings,” or certain types of businesses risk being struck down as a violation of the First Amendment. Many local governments throughout the United States enact sign regulations without regard to these core First Amendment principles, leaving themselves with heightened risk of costly litigation and infringing upon the constitutional rights of individuals and businesses.
Sign litigation is common, expensive, and risky for local governments. Individuals, businesses, and local governments themselves must therefore take care to understand the requirements of the First Amendment. Some of the services provided by Otten Johnson in this area include:
- Assisting local governments with drafting, enacting, and enforcing sign regulations.
- Representing sign owners in negotiations with local governments over sign size, height, and design.
- Representing local governments and sign owners in litigation involving sign regulation.
A link to the Rocky Mountain Sign Law blog.