Is It Illegal to Own a Street Sign?

Found in homes, restaurants, and bars across the country, street signs aren’t just used for road safety. Many see street signs as the perfect decoration, speed limits or “Do Not Enter” signs adding a rugged aesthetic to the room. But is it illegal to own one? And if so, how much trouble could you get into?

Is it illegal to own a street sign

Damages stop sign in the desert
Stop Sign | Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times/Getty Images

The short answer is no, you are allowed to have a street sign in your house. What matters is how you obtained the sign in the first place. If you really like a street sign, pluck it off its post, and bring it home, you’ve just committed theft. Street signs are considered to be city property, and stealing one is treated like any other theft.

If caught, the punishments range from fines to actual jail time, though that all depends on the sign you swiped. Some signs only cost $50 to make, whereas others cost over $1,000.

According to Rosen Blum Law, if the value of the sign is less than $200, you could face 6 months in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Anything between $200 and $500 results in 18 months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. And anything higher than $500 of stolen property could result in five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. In other words, stealing is no joke.

Not only is theft a crime, but removing the sign from where it stood can negatively alter traffic patterns. More often than not, it’s best to leave traffic signs where they are rather than removing them yourself.

What if the sign fell over?

Downed stop sign being collected by a worker
Downed Stop Sign | Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera/Getty Images)

It may seem like a victimless crime, snagging a sign that already fell down. In actuality, stealing a sign that fell over (either from extreme wind or an accident) is just as illegal as stealing an intact sign. That said, if the post is crooked and can be bent upright again, or the sign is off-kilter, you can orient them properly again, though you’re not obligated to.

The best course of action is to report the sign to your city offices directly or via your city website. In some states, it’s also possible to report damaged or missing signs to the DMV. Lastly, if the fallen or missing sign was a stop sign, it’s recommended to call 911, that way it will be repaired faster.

How to obtain a street sign legally

Traffic driving past a 40 mile-per-hour street sign
40 Mile-Per-Hour Speed Limit Sign | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty Images

Chances are the signs you see indoors were purchased, not plucked off the streets. All of your popular options, such as one-way signs, stop signs, and speed limit markers can be purchased on the Parking and Traffic Supply website. Prices range from $10 to $50 dollars, but are manufactured to the same specifications/dimensions as the signs in public.

Whether it’s for your game room or your guest room, street sign decorations are excellent for bringing life into a room. But it’s important you get your sign through legal means. After all, it’s cheaper to buy a street sign for $50 online than a $1,000 fine for tampering with one.

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