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Where Can I put my Campaign Signs?

Feb 02

During election years, you can always expect to see hundreds of campaign signs placed on the side of the road. It seems that during these times, someone always asks me “isn’t there a law that says you can’t put campaign signs in the right-of way?” Actually, there is such a law, although it seems not often enforced in this area.

Under Alabama Code Section 23-1-6,  signs, markers and advertising on the rights-of-way of state controlled highways are prohibited except those official signs or markers placed in the right of way by the State Department of Transportation or under its authority. In other words, Alabama state law allows only authorized regulatory signs or signs that the Alabama Department of Transportation (DOT) gives special permission for to be placed in road’s right of way. Any object placed in the right of way that does not have special permission from the DOT is illegally placed. This includes political candidate signs as well as crosses at the scene of a fatal wreck, “For Sale” signs, signs informing others of yard sales, etc.

In fact, the DOT has procedures in place to remove obstructions or encroachments of this mature found in the right of way. If alerted to the problem, the DOT will either ask the sign owner to remove it or issue an “encroachment notice” to the owner. If the owner will not remove the obstruction, the DOT can choose to go through a legal process which includes warning letters from a DOT attorney, and in some cases, an actual court appearance and hearing. If a sign interferes with motorists’ sight distance or creates a safety hazard, however, the DOT has the option to simply remove the sign or obstruction immediately.

There are criminal penalties for those who place signs or other obstructions in the right of way, although I believe that this type of remedy is rarely used by the DOT. Alabama Code Section 23-1-288 notes that whoever erects or maintains a sign in violation of the provisions of this division or in violation of rules and regulations promulgated by the director under the provisions of this division shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor and shall upon conviction be punished accordingly.

So, be careful where you place your campaign signs, making sure they are out of the right of way of any road or highway and do not obstruct a drivers’ view of the road. Otherwise, you may get a call from the DOT.

On a final note, I would like to announce the addition of Summer McWhorter to the law office.  Summer is a graduate of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and has been practicing here in Centre for several months. Summer is from Cedar Bluff originally and many of you know her parents Paul and Betty McWhorter. Before moving back home, she spent some time working with her cousin Bill McWhorter in Pell City, Alabama. She is also cousin to Bob McWhorter, who practiced in Centre for many years. I am very glad to have Summer join what I guess I can know call the “firm.”