July 20, 2016

PLF Fights For Homeowners’ Free-Speech Rights In Florida

By PLF Fights For Homeowners’ Free-Speech Rights In Florida

PLF’s Harold Johnson speaks with PLF Principal Attorney J. David Breemer and his client Edward Goodwin about how the County of Walton in Florida is denying Goodwin’s right to free-speech by banning beach-signs on his property.

To safeguard their privacy, personal security, and property rights, they put up two small “Private Property” signs, and a third small sign that says, “If the County Wants My Private Beach for Public Use, It Must Pay Me For It — US Constitution.”

They need to state publicly and prominently that their beach property is private, because the county will not enforce trespassing laws unless the owners mark out their property lines. The sign ban effectively prohibits the Goodwins from exercising their First Amendment right to convey an essential message — i.e., to tell the public, and the county itself, that their property is private.

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Goodwin v. Walton County, Florida

Under a new Florida law, signed on March 23, 2018, Walton County, Florida, can no longer try to steal free access to private property. County officials had enacted an ordinance banning signs on privately owned beaches, in hopes of allowing the public to trespass on private beaches without having to pay for the use. County officials threatened PLF clients Edward and Delanie Goodwin with large fines for keeping in place two “private property” signs and one small sign saying “If Walton County Wants My Property, It Must Pay For It — U.S. Constitution.” The Goodwins argued that the First Amendment protects their right to post signs on their property, and that the ban left the Goodwins with no reasonable alternative means to alert the beachgoing public to their property rights. The new state law now requires the county to go to court if they want to claim any right for the public to use private property.

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