Campaign Sign Removal - The Legal Issues Against Doing Such
Signage on private property is subject to the City ordinances which are general enforced by the District Attorney. It is up to the Campaign or Candidate to file a complaint and follow through. Quite often the time sensitive pressures of a campaign puts pursuing the vandalism a low priority, even though there have been precedents of prosecution.
This past primary we saw a situation where signs for a Sheriff Candidate were stolen and later appeared in a makeshift signage writing out the name "ALEX". Given this is a law enforcement candidacy it is highly doubtful any candidate would authorize such a tactic for a single location. So, it is more than likely an over enthusiastic volunteer of the victim candidate trying to gain publicity during the primary or discredit the accused candidate. LA County Sheriff candidate Matt Rodriguez's campaign signs stolen, rearranged to spell out "Alex" - CBS Los Angeles (cbsnews.com)
However, an incident recently posted on Facebook highlights the fact sign stealing is still a tactic, if only to distract, by incumbent candidates and/or their volunteers.
"Lucie Lapointe Volotzky (candidate for Congress US District 32) posted on Facebook:
October 2 at 3:26 PM · Does anyone know this lady? She is driving the car we described as stealing my yard signs. My husband tried to talk to her, but she ran away!
How far a candidate will go to thwart an opponent was demonstrated in a 2018 incident where the attorney wife of then Mayor of Fullerton was running for City Council; was accused of stealing multiple signs of her opponent. It was all captured-on surveillance cameras outside her opponent's campaign office.
The opponent chose to follow through and had her charged for petty theft and a possibility of jail time! The District Attorney's office eventually announced "Paulette Chaffee will be ordered to pay restitution of $20, plus $150 in state restitution, pay $150 to the Victim Witness Emergency Fund, and complete 20 hours of community service. If 60 or more hours of community service are completed by the sentencing date, the People will consider a motion to reduce the misdemeanor charges to infractions.” Eventually the crime record was expunged, and she was able to run for public office again in February 2022.
The story was so unique it made the news in the UK. California mayor's wife accused of stealing campaign signs opposing her city council candidacy | Daily Mail Online
Conversely, a candidate can rack up fines by not adhering to highway parameters for campaign signs by Cal Trans:
Section 5405.3 of the State Outdoor Advertising Act permits the placement of Temporary Political Signs along state highways with restrictions. However, these signs are not to be placed within the state right of way. In addition, signs cannot be visible within 660 feet from the edge of the right of way of a classified “landscaped freeway.” Campaign Signs Face Restrictions Along State Highways | Caltrans
If campaign signs are located on private property, but within view of a state highway, candidates must file a Statement of Responsibility form with Caltrans’ Outdoor Advertising Program in Sacramento.
A temporary political sign meets the following criteria:
- Encourages a vote in a scheduled election.
- Is placed no sooner than 90 days prior to the scheduled election and is removed within 10 days after that election.
- Is no larger than 32 square feet.
- Has a statement of responsibility form filed with Caltrans certifying a person who will be responsible for removing the signs.
State law directs Caltrans to remove unauthorized temporary political signs and bill the responsible party for their removal.
Coming tomorrow: Candidate Debates is it a thing of the past? Not even virtual???