Are handbills illegal in Chicago? Not exactly


Under the city's handbill ordinance, fliers can be distributed house to house if they include the business license number. In setting the record straight at tonight's East Village Association meeting, 1st Ward aide Ronda Locke acknowledged that most fliers don't include that information.

Also, ads should not block the locks on doors and gates. Typically, fliers hung on doorknobs do exactly that.

Nonetheless, Locke says the 2007 city ordinance is not as sweeping as the draft that 1st Ward Ald. Manny Flores introduced at the urging of the East Village Garden Club's Jeanne Felknor. And in practice, the fines of $200 to $1,000 are not imposed.

"Streets & Sanitation will only go after non-compliance if it is very blatantly excessive," Locke said. "If. however, you post something that says 'No Soliciting' at the entrance, the handbills cannot be distributed."

For the record, here is the text of the ordinance.

10-8-310  Placing commercial advertising matter in automobiles prohibited.
     No person shall distribute or cause others to distribute, as defined in Section 10-8-325, circulars, handbills, folders or other commercial advertising matter by means of handing them to the occupants of automobiles operated or standing in the public way, or by placing or thrusting such circulars, handbills, folders or other commercial advertising matter into or upon or under the windshield wiper of an unoccupied automobile standing in the public way. Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than $200.00 nor more than $1,000.00 for each offense. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that any person, business or entity whose goods, services, or activities are promoted in the commercial advertising matter distributed in violation of this section is a person who distributed it or caused it to be distributed.
(Prior code § 36-29; Amend Coun. J. 2-7-07, p. 98140, § 1)

10-8-271  Distribution of commercial advertising matter on private property.
     (a)     It shall be unlawful for any person to distribute or to cause others to distribute, as defined in Section 10-8-325, commercial advertising matter of any kind on the premises of any residential dwelling in the city in such a manner that it does or reasonably could interfere with any security mechanism or cause any safety hazard. Unlawful methods of distribution include, but are not limited to, hanging commercial advertising matter on the doorknob of any entrance door or gate, placing or wedging commercial advertising matter into or underneath any entrance door in such a manner that it could interfere with the door locking, or leaving a stack of commercial advertising matter on the premises. Such distribution shall not be unlawful if it is hand-to- hand or if the property management or owners have posted express written consent or if the commercial advertising matter is placed in a specific location designated by the property management or owners for the receipt of such matter. This section shall apply only to commercial advertising matter.
     (b)     It shall be unlawful for any person to distribute or to cause others to distribute, as defined in Section 10-8-325, commercial advertising matter of any kind on the premises of any private property in the city where the owner, occupant or manager has posted a “No Trespassing” or “No Soliciting” sign or a substantial equivalent thereof at or near a front entrance in plain view.
     (c)     Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than $200.00 or more than $1,000.00 for each offense. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that any person, business or entity whose goods, services, or activities are promoted in the commercial advertising matter distributed in violation of this section is a person who distributed it or caused it to be distributed.
(Added Coun. 7-2-97, p. 48127; Amend Coun. J. 6-27-01, p. 63093, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 5-1-02, p. 84346, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 7-10-02, p. 90139, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 5-11-05, p. 48077, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 2-7-07, p. 98140, § 1)
10-8-272  Reserved.
Editor’s note – Coun. J. 12-12-07, p. 17476, § 1, repealed § 10-8-272, which pertained to the distribution of newspapers, periodicals, and directories.

10-8-325  Responsibility for distribution of commercial advertising matter.
     (a)     Any person who distributes, or causes to be distributed, as defined in subsection (d), any commercial advertising matter promoting his, her or its goods, services, or activities, on the public way or other public place or on the premises of any private property in the city is required to: (1) place the city business license number for the business promoted, in a manner and size that is clear and legible, on all commercial advertising matter prior to any such distribution; provided that, this requirement shall apply only to those businesses which are required by law to obtain a city business license, and (2) provide each person hired or requested to distribute commercial advertising matter on his, her or its behalf with a summary or copy of the requirements for lawful distribution of commercial advertising matter, set forth in Sections 10-8-270, 10-8-271, 10-8-310, and 10-8-320 of this Code, to train those persons on complying with such requirements, and require such compliance.
     (b)     Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than $200.00 or more than $1,000.00 for each offense.
     (c)     The department of business affairs and consumer protection is authorized to suspend or revoke any person’s city business license for violations of any of the provisions of this section or of Sections 10-8-270, 10-8-271, 10-8-310, and 10-8-320 of this Code where (1) the licensee is found liable for three or more violations within a 12-month period, or (2) the commissioner of streets and sanitation recommends such license suspension or revocation to the department based on one or more violations deemed egregious by such commissioner.
     (d)     When used in Sections 10-8-270, 10-8-271, 10-8-272, 10-8-310, and 10-8-320 of this Code, “distribute or cause to distribute” shall refer exclusively to the actions of the person or business (1) whose goods, services or activities are promoted by the commercial advertising material or who is in the business of distributing the material described in those sections, and (2) who initiated or directed the distribution. The terms shall not refer to the actions of the persons hired to distribute but having no ownership or managerial interest in the business whose goods, services or activities are being advertised or distributed or in the distribution business.
(Added Coun. J. 2-7-07, p. 98140, § 1; Amend Coun. J. 11-19-08, p. 47220, Art. V, § 5)

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