On April 7, 2001, ... Scott, a resident of Byers, Colorado, which is east of Denver, was tried in a criminal case for "desecrating an object venerated by the public." The facts alleged in the case were that Scott illegally removed a roadside memorial, complete with Christian cross, from the median strip of an interstate highway....
Robert Tiernan... represented Mr. Scott free of charge. At the end of the prosecution's case, he moved for dismissal. The judge granted the motion and issued the (excerpted) opinion set forth below. The opinion is important because most if not all of the states have similar traffic laws and regulations dealing with littering, unauthorized advertising, and adverse possession.
County court, County of Adams, State of Colorado Criminal Action No. 00- M-2096.
The people of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff, v. Rodney Lyle Scott, Defendant.
The hearing in this matter commenced on the 5th day of April, 2001, before the Honorable Jeffrey L. Romeo, Judge of the County Court, Division VI....
In regard to the facts, this memorial was put up by family members, the stepfather and some friends . . . on a public right-of-way, at Colfax and I-70. There's no dispute about that. This is a piece of public ground; it is not private; there was no authorization to do that. And, as Mr. Hopkins states, virtually quote, they "cannot give permission to put memorials on state property." They have no authority to do that. It's state property. . . . Once it's put up, technically it is abandoned property. It is abandoned as a matter of law.
...adverse possession. In this particular case, if I were to accept the District Attorney's theory as proposed in its memorandum, essentially it would allow people to adversely possess land against the people of the State of Colorado....
Under *43-1-421, no person other than the Department of Transportation . . . may without written approval of the Department erect or maintain any "advertising device." Now, here's the sticking point that I'm sure may confuse especially lay people, but not the attorneys. "Advertising device" under the statute does not mean what you may think it means.
"Advertising device" you may think means billboards . . . the old Burma Shave signs, those sorts of things. This Colorado Supreme Court decided in the case of George W. Pigg v. Department of Highways, 746 P. 2nd, 961 (1987), this statute applies to noncommercial speech...
Finally, another statute that needs to be considered is *18-4-511, Littering of Public or Private Property.
It says, "Any person who deposits, throws, or leaves any litter on a public or private property or waterways, commits littering." Littering is a Class 2 petty offense, punishable by a mandatory fine and could be up to a thousand dollars on a second conviction.
Litter has a legal definition, and the Court is bound by the legal definition, not what someone may think is used in Webster's dictionary or might be used in common conversation. It does in fact constitute litter upon the highway. It's a Class 2 petty offense to do that.
The Court finds that here we have abandoned property on a public roadway, not placed there with authorization, in contravention of at least four public policies, and the Legislature has refused in fact to protect these roadside memorials. To allow them would be to allow people to adversely possess land against the state. They constitute an advertising device in violation of that statute. This particular one constitutes a danger, a hazardous substance being placed there, and constitutes litter, two of those being criminal statutes....
It would be a legal and logical absurdity to say that this is litter on one hand but must be venerated in the very next second.... Therefore, the Court finds as a matter of law, this roadside memorial is not a venerated object. Therefore, the Court must grant judgment of acquittal.
#2. "RE: CO Court Rules on Roadside Cross" In response to Reply # 1
Georgia has just indicated this as well, and has started to remove such displays. Who in their right mind would subject themselves to this morbid display, anyway? Those of us who live around them do not wish to be reminded of their child/parent/loved one loss.
Oh, there's a hint of cool in the air, and Winter is coming! I've got to gather more firewood... And Sign stakes make great fire starters!