I remember when the movie “Signs” by M. Night Shyamalan premiered. The film left us scratching our collective heads because the underlying story was not what we thought it would be about.
I would also bet that in the weeks before Election Day in every community around the country people are again left scratching their heads when the “signs” - in this case, their campaign signs - go missing from their roadways, yards, or vehicles. Citizens are left feeling violated because those signs show support for their chosen candidates and encourage others to vote.
We may not agree with the messages shown on the signs, and some people think that taking them is just a prank performed by some misguided folks having fun. But stealing signs is much more than just vandalizing. It is an infringement on another’s freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Are there any legal consequences for this behavior? Yes. It is important to note that destroying, defacing or stealing political signs is illegal and could result in serious consequences in the state of Virginia. When found guilty, the perpetrator could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor that could result in hefty fines. However, there has to be a burden of proof which is often difficult to validate.
So, what can you do? Please - leave these signs alone. Let freedom of speech prevail. Change our society with your vote instead of doing something illegal.
William Quarles Jr. is the Co-Chair of the Goochland Democratic Committee.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appear in the Goochland Gazette, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
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