The City has received complaints about persons conducting door-to-door solicitation in residential neighborhoods. Residents have also complained about the delivery of handbills, newspapers, and magazines at their properties, and have asked the City to provide tighter regulations.
First Amendment law does not allow the City to prohibit solicitation at all businesses and residences in Newport Beach. Federal courts have said that completely prohibiting solicitation infringes on the First Amendment rights of speakers, who may have few alternative means of communicating their ideas or messages. However, federal law allows residents to take specific steps to protect their own privacy. It also allows the City to place reasonable restrictions on times and places in which solicitation can occur, and the manner of that solicitation.
The Newport Beach City Council seeks to balance the rights of speakers with the right of Newport Beach residents to have privacy in their homes. The City Council adopted changes to the Newport Beach Municipal Code (“NBMC”), effective May 13, 2010, to strengthen that balance.
Information for Residents:
The First Amendment does not require that residents have unwanted communications imposed on them in their homes. However, before allowing penalties for otherwise legal solicitations, courts require that the solicitors be notified that the resident does not want the communication.
The easiest way to give the required notice is to display a “no soliciting” sign in a location where solicitors can see it. Courts have routinely found that if a resident displays a “no soliciting” or similar sign at the residence, he or she has the right to not receive unsolicited communication.
1. "Do Not Solicit" Registry
The amendment to NBMC Chapter 5.42 (Solicitation) that most affects residents is the addition of the “Do Not Solicit” registry. (See NBMC section 5.42.125.) Some solicitation and handbill distribution takes place after dark, which makes “no soliciting” signs harder to see. To address this, the City has initiated a “Do Not Solicit” registry, which Newport Beach residents can join here. Please visit this link to learn more about the “Do Not Solicit” registry, and to sign up for the registry.
Residents may join the registry at any time during the year. However, to keep the list current and comply with First Amendment principles, residents who wish to remain on the “Do Not Solicit” registry from year to year must renew their registration on an annual basis.
The City will notify solicitors about the “Do Not Solicit” registry to the extent possible. However, the City will not be able to reach all individuals and groups who might solicit in Newport Beach. Although it is a violation of the NBMC to solicit or deliver handbills to any residence on the “Do Not Solicit” list, the “no soliciting” signs displayed at homes help by giving more traditional notice to solicitors that residents of that home do not want unsolicited communications.
2. Solicitation Registration for Commercial Solicitors
Some residents worry that solicitors may become a neighborhood safety concern. Federal law does not allow the City to require noncommercial solicitors (including volunteers fundraising for noncommercial organizations or causes) to register. However, it does permit registration of commercial solicitors. The new revisions to the NBMC require that commercial solicitors register with the Newport Beach Police Department, and all commercial solicitors must carry registration cards when they solicit within the city. If a resident is being solicited, he or she has a right to ask to see the commercial solicitor’s registration card.