First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
N.H. high court says city can ban electronic billboards

By The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire's Supreme Court says cities and towns can ban electronic billboards in the name of safety and aesthetics.

Regulating the signs does not unnecessarily infringe on First Amendment rights to free speech, the court noted yesterday in overturning a lower court's decision.

The case was brought by Carlson's Chrysler, which applied for a permit in 2005 for an electronically changeable sign at its Concord dealership. At the time, a city zoning ordinance banned electronic moving signs except for signs that showed the time, date and temperature. The city has since banned electronic time, date and temperature signs, as well.

When the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment denied the permit, the dealer appealed to the Superior Court, saying its right to commercial free speech was being infringed.

That court agreed with the dealership, acknowledging that municipalities have the right to restrict commercial speech for aesthetic or safety reasons but saying that Concord presented no evidence that banning the signs would achieve those goals. It said the city could have achieved its safety and aesthetic goals with a less restrictive ordinance.

But the high court, in a decision written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, cited a California court's decision that said — regardless of the lack of data presented on the subject — common sense suggests that "billboards are intended to, and undoubtedly do, divert a driver's attention from the roadway."

The high court disagreed with the lower court's ruling that Concord's ordinance was broader than necessary.

"The most effective way to eliminate the problems raised by electronic signs containing commercial advertising is to prohibit them," Broderick wrote in Carlson's Chrysler v. City of Concord.


11th Circuit throws out Florida town's sign code

Three-judge panel says Neptune Beach's sign restrictions violate First Amendment by regulating content, failing to set time limits for deciding permit applications. 06.01.05

Ark. city can regulate flashing signs, 8th Circuit rules
John LaTour says he'll appeal, claims city of Fayetteville opposed his sign because he posted political, religious messages. 04.10.06


News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print

Last system update: Friday, July 25, 2008 | 05:15:44
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Singsā„¢
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links