I pass flyers to help out my parent's store, but I have repeatedly been told that it's illegal and have had the police called on me a good number of times even though I don't give flyers to houses that have "no soliciting" and "no trespassing" signs up, and immediately leave if somebody says or even implies they don't want one. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure no soliciting laws that outright ban soliciting are unconstitutional from the readings I've done. The most notable of them I consider is the 1976 Supreme Court case "Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council." To be honest, I'm not even sure if what I'm doing is considered soliciting because I'm not necessarily selling anything or knock on doors. I'm simply giving out flyers with information on it for potential customers to call at a later time. I also read an interesting article called "How to Get Rid of Door to Door Salespeople Once and For All!," but I'm not sure on its validly or if I'm missing anything.

Add-on questions: What about for gated communities? Neighborhoods have signs posted at their entrances saying "no soliciting"? And gated communities with no soliciting signs?

Can somebody claim property damage if the ground around their property was muddy and my shoe happened to sink into the ground and leave a mark?

It's illegal to put ads in people's mailboxes, but sometimes, the person I try giving the flyer to tells me to just put it in their mailbox. What should I do in that case? If they claim that I put it in their mailbox without their permission, I would have no way to prove otherwise, unless there happened to be a recording of the ordeal, which isn't very likely.

Please help me out, as my parents aren't doing much of anything about it and simply tell me to ignore them or go to another's street. The fact that I'm 15 makes the entire thing worse. This has caused me a lot of distress over the years, and it would be nice not having people think I'm breaking the law every day, as I pass flyers every day.

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    Whether you're soliciting is not terribly important as far as the general legality of the act is concerned. (Commercial speech, including advertising, is still generally protected by the First Amendment.) But in fact, you are. Those flyers you're distributing are an attempt to convince people to do something -- namely, to come to the store and ideally buy stuff. That's solicitation, according to a couple of different meanings for the word.
    – cHao
    Dec 14, 2017 at 22:57
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    To rephrase @cHao's comment: because of the nature of the flyer, giving that flyer to someone probably constitutes solicitation. You say you're not selling anything, but from others' point of view you are: you're acting on behalf of your parents' store, which of course is trying to sell something by distributing that flyer.
    – phoog
    Dec 16, 2017 at 12:28
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    Solid researching and understanding for 15 - go to law school one day! People yelling from inside their house always think they know the law! Blanket restrictions are unconstitutional, but ordinances which specifically state that canvassers, peddlers, solicitors may not visit buildings which have "no soliciting" posted have been found constitutional in certain jurisdictions: p2lawyers.com/blog/2016/1/31/…
    – A.fm.
    Dec 16, 2017 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


Because of the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, governments can regulate businesses. Distributing commercial information (advertising) is regulatable. However, commercial speech enjoys some degree of 1st amendment protection, even if not the range of protection afforded viewpoint speech. Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission, 447 U.S. 557 articulates tests that restrictions on commercial speech are supposed to pass: the government needs a good reason to impose a restriction.

Town of Green River, Wyoming v. Fuller Brush Co., 65 F.2d 112 presents a challenge to a strong restriction on door-to-door commerce, where door-to-door sales without prior invitation is banned, which is justified because "frequent ringing of doorbells...is... a nuisance to the occupants of homes". It is possible that the particular ordinance is not constitutional, we'd need to see the text of the law, but it is possibly a constitutional law.

(Mailboxes are a further problem, which people normally don't know about. You can't put anything in a mailbox including the one on your porch, per 18 USC 1725, unless postage is paid. However, door slots are not mail boxes. Permission of the homeowner is irrelevant, you'd need the law to be repealed, or you could just put a stamp on it).

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