A topical index to MRSC's information resources.|
Licensing and Regulating: LR 68.2000 - Green River ordinances
- Can a city or county enforce an ordinance that makes all uninvited commercial solicitation a public nuisance?
Ordinances that broadly prohibit door-to-door soliciting, sometimes called "Green River" ordinances (after a city in Wyoming whose anti-soliciting ordinance had been challenged and upheld), were at one time very common. However, more recent court decisions have raised doubts as to whether such ordinances would be similarly upheld today.
A federal court decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a city ordinance that prohibited door-to-door solicitation unless the homeowner placed a "solicitor's welcome" sign on their door was an unconstitutional infringement of free speech rights. The court held that the ordinance did not provide the least restrictive alternative available to accomplish the legitimate governmental interests of protecting residential privacy and preventing crime.
Some jurisdictions still have these types of broad prohibitions in their ordinances and may therefore be subject to similar court challenges. This does not mean that cities and counties cannot regulate peddlers or solicitors at all. Cities and counties may still require commercial solicitors to register and obtain a license. These ordinances can also contain more limited prohibitions, such as prohibiting solicitors from contacting residences that have posted "no soliciting" signs.
For more information and some sample ordinances, see MRSC's Web page on "Regulation of Peddlers, Solicitors, Temporary Merchants and Mobile Vendors."
- Can a city or town enact a "Green River ordinance" banning all door to door solicitation?
The term "Green River Ordinance" refers to ordinances that prohibit door-to-door peddling or solicitation without distinguishing between commercial and noncommercial endeavors. The name comes from Ordinance No. 175, adopted by the Town of Green River, Wyoming, in 1931. These types of ordinances have been ruled unconstitutional when they prohibit religious or noncommercial door-to-door solicitation. The U.S. Supreme Court, on June 17, 2002, invalidated a Stratton, Ohio, ordinance that required canvassers to register and obtain a permit from the mayor's office before going door-to-door promoting any cause (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 00-1737). The Court held that the ordinance violated the First Amendment as it applied to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech, and the distribution of handbills.
In 2000, the ACLU filed a federal suit and successfully challenged an overbroad Medina ordinance regulating solicitors - see "Medina To Repeal "Get a License to Talk" Law, Court Approves Final Settlement of ACLU Lawsuit."
In Washington State, the general regulations for charitable solicitations are covered by Chapter 19.09 RCW. We suggest you review those statutes.