If you drive by any street corner in a residential area on a weekend, you are bound to see a couple of yard and garage sale signs. If you walk by a utility pole on a city street, you may see flyers posted up for musical acts, events, items for sale, services offered, missing pets, or public service announcements. Posting flyers for your business, for public awareness, or even for a yard sale is a good way to spread the word. There is nothing criminal about posting flyers for these purposes on its own, but it is when you post flyers on property you do not own that you run into risk. There are several scenarios where you could be criminally prosecuted for posting flyers on property you do not own. Whether or not posting flyers is legal will depend on a few things. What kind of property you are posting on, who owns the property, what the purpose or function of the property is, and what your purpose for posting flyers is will all come in to play in determining the legality of posting flyers. Under California Penal Code § 556, it is unlawful to post, or facilitate posting, materials on state, city, or county-owned property. This is an important law to keep in mind. Utility poles, mailboxes, governmental buildings or structures, or traffic signs can seem like a good place to post a flyer for maximum exposure, however because these are protected pieces of property, you can face criminal charges if you do so.
Similarly, under California Penal Code § 556.1, it is unlawful to post, or facilitate posting, materials that advertise services, businesses, merchandise, or anything to be sold, bartered, or given away upon property you do not own and have not been given a right to post on. The prohibited materials include signs, pictures, transparencies, advertisements (in any form), or mechanical devices. A flyer, regardless of the material, will fall into one or more of these categories. Violating this code can be charged as a misdemeanor offense, with fines and potential jail time. Another scenario where posting flyers may be a chargeable offense is if you are trespassing in an attempt to post the flyers. Many types of flyers will not fall into the advertising category, such as flyers for lost pets or belongings, and so you may not face a criminal charge under state law for posting them, if not posted on governmental property. However, the owner of the property does have the right to remove the flyers, or ask you to remove them.
It is important to note here that while there are California state laws prohibiting certain kinds of posting of materials, the city and county in which you are posting them may have its own code or ordinance regarding such an act. Always be aware of the municipal codes and ordinances in the city and county in which you are posting. These codes and ordinances may or may not align with state law, and can vary widely across the state, so it is important you verify them prior to posting. If you violate a city or county ordinance, you could face either civil or criminal action, depending on the facts of the case. You could face a civil citation and fine or even a misdemeanor criminal charge. The charge, fines, and penalties will vary from location to location and the facts and circumstances of the case. If you have questions about the codes and ordinances where you live, or where you plan to post flyers, consult with a local California criminal defense attorney to ensure you will not be breaking any laws that could lead to criminal prosecution. You can also research these ordinances online on the city's website. When it comes to posting flyers, it is better to be safe than sorry. No one wants to end up with a criminal charge on his or her record for posting flyers, however if you don't post in the right place, this could end up happening to you.
Do you have questions about posting flyers in your city? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team. With ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Christopher Martens will advise you on the legal implications of posting flyers where you live. If you are facing criminal charges as a result of posting flyers, our Visalia area legal team can help you fight back. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com for a free consultation.