Illegal signs can include signs placed in illegal locations, signs with illegal content, or signs that violate bans on size, shape, and illumination. Laws concerning signage vary considerably around the world. Signs legal in one place may be illegal in another, and people concerned about following the law should consult local officials for specific information on signs. When government officials identify illegal signs, they can take actions such as removing them and assessing a fine.
Illegal locations can include signs too close to navigational walkways and roads, signs placed in distracting locations, and so forth. Sometimes, the legality of a location depends on the context. Many governments, for example, have bans on political material in close proximity to a polling place. A campaign sign might be illegal in the yard of a home next door to the polling place, but fine on the corner, as this will be far away enough to satisfy the laws. Laws about sign locations usually provide specific measurements to assist people with correct sign placement and help people avoid illegal signs.
Signs can also be illegal because of their content, depending on the region. Some nations bar sexually explicit material, false advertising, or incitements to criminal activity on signs. A billboard of a naked woman might be legal in one nation and not in another. The legality of content can also depend on location. In some cases, for example, advertisements for cigarettes are not allowed near schools or school bus routes, but are acceptable in other places.
Size, shape, and illumination can also be a concern with illegal signs. Things like animated billboards may be banned in some municipalities, as are extremely large signs that may interfere with visibility and safety. Usually, municipal codes discuss limitations on the size and construction of signs so people can place signs properly and make sure they comply with the law. In some cases, people may need a special permit for a particular type of sign, giving members of the community a chance to offer feedback on whether they approve the installation of a sign in a given location.
In historic districts and certain communities, illegal signs can include signs that do not meet the aesthetic code of the district. These codes create a specific look and feel by legislating things like signage, appropriate paint colors, and so forth. In this case, people can be cited and asked to replace their signs if officials feel they do not fit the look, feel, and tone of the community.