Abingdon Police Department
For Immediate Release
As we near the November elections, the Town of Abingdon and the Abingdon Police Department would like to provide information in regards to political signs:
Virginia State Code
Any person who in any manner (i) paints, prints, places, puts or affixes any sign or advertisement upon or to any rock, stone, tree, fence, stump, pole, mile-board, milestone, danger-sign, guide-sign, guidepost, highway sign, historical marker, building, or other object lawfully within the limits of any highway or (ii) erects, paints, prints, places, puts, or affixes any sign or advertisement within the limits of any highway shall be assessed a civil penalty of $100. Each occurrence shall be subject to a separate penalty. All civil penalties collected under this section shall be paid into the Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund. Signs or advertisements placed within the limits of the highway are hereby declared a public and private nuisance and may be forthwith removed, obliterated, or abated by the Commissioner of Highways or his representatives without notice. The Commissioner of Highways may collect the cost of such removal, obliteration, or abatement from the person erecting, painting, printing, placing, putting, affixing or using such sign or advertisement. When no one is observed erecting, painting, printing, placing, putting, or affixing such sign or advertisement, the person, firm or corporation being advertised shall be presumed to have placed the sign or advertisement and shall be punished accordingly. Such presumption, however, shall be rebuttable by competent evidence. In addition, the Commissioner or his representative may seek to enjoin any recurring violator of this section. The Commissioner of Highways may enter into agreements with any local governing body authorizing local law-enforcement agencies or other local governmental entities to act as agents of the Commissioner for the purpose of (i) enforcing the provisions of this section and (ii) collecting the penalties and costs provided for in this section. Any such agreement may provide that penalties and costs collected pursuant to such agreement shall be paid as agreed.
The Virginia Department of Transportation provides guidance concerning Outdoor Advertising and State Right of Way-
What is “right of way?” State-maintained right of way is property along a roadway on either side. This area does not belong to individual property owners. It must be kept clear for motorist safety and so road crews have room to work.
Where is the right of way located? There is no standard right of way distance for every road. Generally, the right of way ranges from 25 to 150 feet from the road’s center line. Due to this wide range, it’s important to find out exact right-of-way distance before installing a sign or objects near a road.
Can I place a sign along the road? Signs cannot be on or overhanging state right of way. An off-premise advertising sign adjacent to the right of way requires an Outdoor Advertising Permit.
How do I obtain an Outdoor Advertising Permit? Companies, organizations or individuals who want to place outdoor advertising signs adjacent to the right of way should call 804-786-0654 or e-mail email@example.com .
What will happen if I put my sign in the right of way? Section 33.2-1224, Code of Virginia, prohibits signs and advertisements within the limits of the highway. VDOT is authorized to remove any sign that is in violation of state code, especially if it interferes with roadside maintenance or presents a safety hazard to motorists. In addition, the agency can levy a $100 civil penalty for each sign violation. VDOT also works with localities and the Adopt-A-Highway program to enforce this law.
§ 15.2-109. Regulations on political campaign signs.
No locality shall have the authority to prohibit the display of political campaign signs on private property if the signs are in compliance with zoning and right-of-way restrictions applicable to temporary nonpolitical signs, if the signs have been posted with the permission of the owner. The provisions of this section shall supersede the provisions of any local ordinance or regulation in conflict with this section. This section shall have no effect upon the regulations of the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Abingdon Town Code Provides the Following Guidance-
Section 21-9. - Temporary signs.
(b) A "temporary sign" is a sign that is not permanently mounted to a building or into the ground. Signs attached by rope, string, chain, tape, paste, and similar mechanisms; signs not rigidly attached to a supporting structure; signs made of paper, cardboard, cloth, and similar materials; and signs that are pushed, hammered or similarly put into the ground are considered temporary signs.
Examples of temporary signs include, but are not limited to, garage or yard sale signs, political campaign signs, real estate signs, construction signs, menu/daily special signs.
(c) Each temporary sign shall be maintained in good, safe condition, securely affixed to a building or the ground.
(d) Temporary sign area per lot shall not exceed 32 square feet.
(e) Any temporary sign pertaining to an event must be removed within ten days after the event. For example, garage or yard sale signs, political campaign signs, and real estate signs are subject to this provision. For all other temporary signs, a maximum posting period of 14 consecutive calendar days is permitted, up to five times per calendar year. Such signs shall not be attached in any way to utility poles, meter posts, or trees within any public street right-of-way. No person shall put up any notice upon any building, wall, fence or other property of another person without having first obtained the consent of the owner of such property.
Theft or damage of political or campaign signs
There is no specific statue that pertains to theft or damage of political or campaign signage. However, signs placed legally on private property are afforded the same protection as any other property that can be stolen or vandalized.
Dependent upon the value of the sign(s) offenders can be charged with either petit larceny, grand larceny, or property damage. Punishments range for these offenses range from a class 1 misdemeanor to an unclassed felony.
We hope that everyone will be respectful of these statutes, and the political expressions of others, without stealing or vandalizing signs.
We encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote on Election Day.