Miami Beach’s Anti-Handbilling Ordinance Faces First Amendment Challenge

Solicitation by hand-billing.  We’ve all seen it.  Recently, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the right of businesses in Miami Beach to solicit business via handbilling, even after complaints that hand-billers were annoying and aggressive.

Due to these complaints, the City of Miami Beach enacted an anti-solicitation ordinance and an anti-handbilling ordinance. After receiving numerous citations, several local cosmetics businesses sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinances, claiming they were vague and overbroad under the First Amendment.

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The Eleventh Circuit sided with the businesses.  Although the ordinances targeted commercial speech–which is generally afforded less protection than noncommercial speech–the court upheld the district court’s preliminary injunction “because the record suggests that the ordinance is not narrowly tailored–specifically that the City failed to consider numerous and obvious less burdensome alternatives.”  The court said that the way the ordinance is written makes it too widely applicable, effectively prohibiting non-commercial speech as well as the aggressive handbilling that the city wants to curb.

The city is currently petitioning for en banc review before the entire Eleventh Circuit.  If the court denies rehearing, the case goes back to the district court for further proceedings and a possible trial.

Case: FF Cosmetics FL, Inc. v. City of Miami Beach, No. 15-14394 (11th Cir. Aug. 10, 2017) (opinion here)

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