After putting a “For Sale” sign in the window of his car, which was parked on the street outside his home, Michael Cefali was surprised to receive a $50 ticket from the city of San Juan Capistrano. According to the Orange County Register, Cefali violated a city code whichprohibits the parking of a vehicle on a city street to display it for sale, hire or rental, or for painting or repairs.”
While the assistant city manager has stated that the code is meant to “prevent blight” and “ensure adequate residential parking”, Cefali argues that the code violates his freedom of speech.
In this case, it’s difficult to see how the code prevents blight or protects residential parking—Cefali would still need to park his car whether there was a “For Sale” sign in the window or not.
The restriction on speech, however, is clear. While the city has restricted commercial speech in the form of “For Sale” signs, commercial and political speech is still permitted on cars in the form of bumper stickers. Other cities, including Alexandria, VA, and Los Angeles, CA have lost similar cases on the grounds that prohibiting “For Sale” signs is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of speech.
These cases aren’t the only ways limits on free speech can erode economic and property rights. In Walden County, FL, for example, owners of beach property are prohibited from protecting their property with “Keep Out” or “Private Property” signs.
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