While some poor sap sits in the pokey, arrested for lifting political signs from the Lake Avenue rotary Friday night, I’ve been wondering whether he’s committed any crime at all. The signs themselves are private property and, posted on someone’s front yard, don’t lose that status. But what if private property is left on public land? The DOT routinely confiscates signs planted on state right of ways, so what’s to stop a citizen from doing the same thing?
I see a couple of arguments available to this incarcerated poacher. One might be abandonment; if you leave your chattel on public land, have you abandoned all claims to title? Stronger, perhaps, is the same free speech rights the posters claim: you put up your “Farricker for Selectman” sign as an act of political speech, I remove it with the same intention. What’s the difference?
I’d put this to the test but, at least right now, I’m busy with other things.