(January 8, 2013): As a general rule cities can regulate hawking, canvassing, peddling and soliciting within city limits. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672, 112 S. Ct. 2711, 120 L. Ed. 2d 541 (1992). The public policy that allows cities to regulate peddlers or the solicitation of contributions is to prevent fraud upon the public and to protect privacy. See Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York,Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 165 (2002). Most states will have statute (laws) that will provide a city with the authority to regulate peddlers or solicitors. The regulation has to reasonably relate to the public policy to protect citizens, promote safety, prevent fraud, protect privacy, and other public concerns such as morals, welfare and convenience. Municipal regulations of this types wil be balanced against the equal protection First Amendment rights of peddlers and solicitors.
The city regulation may include the requirement for peddlers or solicitors to register with the city government, apply for a license or permit and set fees to be paid before being allowed to sell or solicit within the city limits. A city may deny or revoke a licensed based on the city’s investigation or other factors. The city may regulate what hours a peddler may approach a private residence or work in city streets or public areas, for example from sunrise to sunset. Regulations may reasonably restrict hours that a peddler may approach private residences or work in city streets or public areas (for example, from sunrise to sunset). See Houston Chronicle Publ’g Co. v. City of League City, 488 F.3d 613 (5th Cir. 2007). Additionally municipal regulations may restrict what city streets and public property vendors and solicitors may or may not use for their business, so long as there are adequate alternate places for solicitation.
However, a city may not completely prohibit peddlers from approaching private residences. A city may compile a “no solicitations” list that residents may sign, and the city can give this list to potential peddlers. The peddlers and solicitors can be required to comply with “no solicitor” signs, and if they are licensed, they could have their license revoked if they fail to comply with “no solicitation” signs.
The laws and factors concerning peddling and soliciting, and what can and cannot be done by cities, will vary from situation to situation and from state to state. Whether you are a city that wishes to regulate peddlers or solicitors or a private individual or company that wants to engage is peddling or soliciting, it is recommended that you contact an attorney with experience in this area for proper advice.