Municipal signboard regulation : a challenge to free expression



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Challenges to the validity of signboard regulation in the last ten years have raised two new issues. First is the claim that signs and billboards were protected under the First Amendment when the U.S. Supreme Court granted limited protection in 1975 to commercial speech. Second is the claim that the inclusion of aesthetics with other traditional public welfare objectives is an abuse of police power and allows government regulators to ban signs. This study reviews U.S. Supreme Court and lower court cases that addressed noncommercial and commercial speech expression in a public forum. An examination of cases deciding the fate of sign ordinances and state statutes, with particular attention paid to aesthetic and traffic safety objectives, is also included. Evidence was found to support the hypothesis that sections of Houston's 1980 sign code which affect on-premise and off-premise signs are unconstitutional.



Signs and signboards--Law and legislation--United States, Signs and signboards--Law and legislation--Texas--Houston