In Chicago Weeds Not Protected As Free Speech

By Jennifer Felten

Many cities have ordinances that require property owners to control the weeds on their property or face fines. Proponents of these types of regulations argue that they are needed for: the prevention of serious fire hazards, the removal of obstructions that interfere with streets and sidewalks, the prevention of noxious weed infestation, and neighborhood preservation. Weeds tend to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants such as crops, flower gardens and ground-cover, and may become detrimental to public health.

The city of Chicago has such an ordinance which states that “any person who owns or controls property within the city must cut or otherwise control all weeds on such property so that the average height of such weeds does not exceed ten inches. Any person who violates this subsection shall be subject to a fine of not less than $600 nor more than $1,200.” It also states that “each day such violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense to which a separate fine shall apply.” Municipal Code of Chicago § 7-28-120(a).

The owners of the Discount Inn in Chicago challenged the ordinance in Federal Court after being fined for violating it more than 20 times. Their argument, the weeds are protected as an expressive right under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In fact, they took the position that their property was not covered with weeds that should be abated but with native plants, which are beautiful and nondestructive when properly managed.

The court, in a humorous opinion, upheld the ordinance, finding that there is a legitimate governmental interest in weed abatement. As such, weed abatement requirements will continue until further notice.

Do weeds have First Amendment rights? How expressive is a weed? Not very...really

Do weeds have First Amendment rights? How expressive is a weed? Not very…really


Jennifer Felten

Jennifer Felten, Esq.


Jennifer Felten, Esq., Partner, LLP,, 699 Hampshire Road, Suite 105, Westlake Village, CA 91361, (805) 265-1031, [email protected].  Ms. Felten specializes in representing both individuals and legal entities, providing representation and guidance on a variety of real estate related matters.



  CEA Conference

RELAW, APC was proud to be an exhibitor at the 60th Annual Educational Conference for the California Escrow Association.  It was a great event and all in attendance received valuable information that they could take back to their office for implementation. 

Jennifer Felten, Esq., was also honored to be a speaker at the event.  She participated in a panel discussion on Social Media that gave attendees an insight into the legal risks associated with having a social media presence.

For inquiries or questions about any of these events, please email [email protected].

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One Response to In Chicago Weeds Not Protected As Free Speech

  1. William "Bill" Hicks November 3, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    With Southern California’s water restrictions, weeds may be the most coveted plants in the neighborhood.


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