Commercial Speech and Free Expression - After several individuals called to complain that they had received citations for posting "For Sale" signs on their vehicles, we became aware of an ordinance that seems to be on the books in just about every city in Utah. Those cited were not accused of any other moving or parking violations. In one instance, the car was legally parked at a downtown Salt Lake City meter, and in another, the car was parked on a private lot in West Valley City. In both cases, the car owners were cited for violating an ordinance prohibiting individuals from parking or driving a vehicle for the "principal purpose of" displaying such vehicle for sale "or displaying advertising."
Following a review of the ordinances and consultations with the car owners, we succeeded in having the citations dismissed. Nevertheless, we remained concerned about the serious chilling effect and outright prohibition of constitutionally protected commercial speech, and on December 12, 2001, we wrote to Salt Lake City and West Valley City officials asking them to stop enforcing these ordinances. We referred them to cases in other states where similar ordinances had been found unconstitutional because they prohibit lawful commercial speech.
While West Valley City agreed to stop enforcing the ordinance, Salt Lake City did not respond to our letter. On February 1, 2002, we filed a lawsuit against Salt Lake City on behalf of Mobile Media on the Go, a California corporation that provides advertising and public service announcements on billboards mounted to vehicles; the nonprofit organization Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), whose mobile video display van was in town during the Winter Olympic Games; and an individual plaintiff wishing to sell his vehicle. Because of Salt Lake City’s recent enforcement of the ordinance, all plaintiffs feared prosecution of their lawful and constitutionally permissible activities. Salt Lake City repealed the ordinance.