Can A Bumper Sticker Get You A Ticket in Texas?
There was a time when the "Baby On Board" or the "My Kid is An Honor Student" bumper stickers were so prevalent I couldn't eat while driving anymore. The sight of one of them would make me nauseous.
American drivers love to express themselves. The First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees that the government cannot regulate a citizen's right to free speech. There are limits, however. It is not legal to shout "fire" in a crowded theater if, indeed, there is no fire.
There are also no guarantees for obscene, threatening, or slanderous language.
With that in mind, can you be fined for an offensive bumper sticker on your car in Texas? First, for safety, bumper sticker placement is strictly regulated by the Texas Automotive Law. Any sticker obstructing the driver's view, the license plate, or your tail light is prohibited.
In addition, removing some stickers from your car can incur damages and harm the resale value of your vehicle. Not only that, but many people consider them tacky, regardless of what message they convey.
There is also some research to suggest that the content of specific stickers can make your vehicle more prone to vandalism or theft.
With all that in mind, if you insist on expressing yourself with a sticker on your vehicle, is it possible that sticker could get you a ticket in Texas?
The answer is yes if the sticker is obscene.
(A) No person may operate a motor vehicle in this State which has affixed or attached to any part of the motor vehicle which is visible to members of the public not occupying the vehicle any sticker, decal, emblem, or other device containing obscene or indecent words, photographs, or depictions.
However, if you are expressing an opinion and using naughty words to do it, like "F-(insert a politician's name here), then in that case, it has been upheld by courts many times that the First Amendment protects such speech.
The court concluded that “the provision regulating profane words on bumper stickers reaches a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech and unconstitutionally restricts freedom of expression” under the First Amendment.
In 2017, a local Texas sheriff went after the owner of a vehicle with a giant decal on the back window that read "F-Trump." The prosecutor in the county refused to prosecute the case.
Can a bumper sticker advertising a political candidate on a car parked within the prohibited area for campaign signs at a polling place be illegal? We could not find a case where this was prosecuted, although technically, it could violate campaigning laws.
As expensive as vehicles are today, I'm satisfied with expressing myself on social media. I would rather be ridiculed by people I don't know online than be confronted by an angry lunatic in the parking lot of my favorite store. There are too many crazy people out there.
See the Must-Drive Roads in Every State