Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 30, 2019

NJ Appellate Court Upholds Ordinance Regulating Signs on Cars but Finds Insufficient Evidence to Convict

This post was authored by Amy Lavine, Esq.

A New Jersey case decided in 2019 upheld a zoning ordinance that prohibited “signs placed upon motor vehicles which are continuously or repeatedly parked in a conspicuous location to serve as a sign.”

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the ordinance was preempted by the state’s motor vehicle code because the ordinance did not regulate motor vehicles per se, but rather prohibited “the use of a motor vehicle as the functional equivalent of a stationary sign.”

The court also found that the ordinance was not impermissibly vague because “the phrase ‘to serve as a sign’ gives notice that if a person selects a ‘conspicuous location’ and continuously or repeatedly parks a vehicle in that location — for the purpose of having the vehicle serve as a sign — the person is subject to a fine.”

While finding that the ordinance was valid, the court nevertheless agreed with the defendant that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. In particular, although photographs of his alleged offense were submitted into evidence, there was no testimony explaining the photographs, and this testimony was necessary to establish that the defendant’s vehicle was in a “conspicuous” location and that it was serving as a sign.

State v. Colson, 2019 WL 2536128 (NJ App. Unpub. 6/20/19).



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