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Soliciting is irksome, not illegal

I have a "No Solicitors" sign above my doorbell and would like to know what are the rules for obeying the sign? It seems like most people just ignore it and stand on my porch ringing away until I finally drop everything to run to the door.

— Doris B., Central Point

Doris, when solicitors disregard the sign, you, the homeowner, can choose to provide a firm but gentle "shoo" or call the police.

Unfortunately, incessant ringing isn't illegal.

The door-to-door pest, however, can be cited for violation of Municipal Code 5.282, Solicitation in Violation of Signs, said Kevin McConnell, assistant city attorney. In this case, the base fine would be $195. There are additional potential crimes and fines if the solicitor harasses the home's occupants or trespasses.

The city does not have a no-solicitation ordinance, but essentially lets residents set their rules when they post — or don't post — a sign.

"The city chooses not to regulate it," McConnell said. "We allow homeowners to choose whether to have solicitors come to their door."

The position was most likely determined in response to the 1988 Oregon Supreme Court case of City of Hillsboro v. Purcell. The court ruled that "municipalities can regulate but not prohibit" soliciting, said McConnell. It said that city ordinances that banned people from entering private property to sell goods violated the free-speech clause of the First Amendment.

In order to stay on the right side of the law, Medford chose to leave it to homeowners' discretion.