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Car Dealership Retains Counsel to Fight $143 Ticket for Flying 11 American Flags

Posted Apr 4, 2012 10:04 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The owner of a Chevrolet dealership in St. Petersburg, Fla., says he has been proudly flying 11 American flags over his business on Route 19 for the past 20 years or so.

But for the first time Michael Maher was made aware recently, by a $143 ticket, that the display allegedly violates municipal code. It limits the total number of flags of any kind to no more than three at any one business location, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

He has retained attorney Michael Siegel to protest the ticket and fight for his right to continue flying the flags.

However, it appears that the court battle may be short-lived, the newspaper says: St. Petersburg's mayor, Bill Foster, has told officials to suspend enforcement on Maher's dealership while they make sure his property was appropriately cited. If so, Foster plans to ask the city council to consider changing the law.

A federal appeals court ruled in 1993 that another Chevrolet dealership, in Clearwater, could continue flying 23 American flags, the newspaper notes. In that case, though, the court held the law violated the First Amendment because it regulated what kind of flags could be flown. The St. Petersburg law appears to be content-neutral concerning flags.

As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, the city of Clearwater has also had a run-in with a bait and tackle shop in recent years. Ticketed for displaying a painting of game fish, it responded by painting over the offending sign with the text of the U.S. Constitution. The city initially said that was a violation, too, but eventually settled the code enforcement case:

ACLU Backs Florida Bait Shop Ticketed for Displaying US Constitution

Fla. City Official: Business Sign Rules Allow US Flag, But Not 1st Amendment

Fla. City to Pay $55K to Bait Shop Ticketed for Displaying US Constitution

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