Legal prosecution by citizen

I beg your pardon, I didn’t quite hear you. Could you please repeat that?

Sorry 'bout that. There was a timeout when I tried to post.

Is there a way for a normal citizen, like myself, to pursue a legal recourse against someone who is performing an illegal act when the official authorities do not have the resources to investigate or prosecute? For example, I have seen people putting illegal signs on the right-of-way and, although I have reported them, the city is not willing to prosecute. Unfortunately they can’t allocate the time and money to prosecute these people. So I was wondering if there is anything I can do all by myself. Can I do something like get an injunction against them which would prohibit them from installing signs? Or sue for damages? Or something else like that? Right now the sign installers can work with impunity because they know they will not face any punishment.

Why don’t you ask these people?

elfoldo, prosecute means criminally, sue means a civil trial. Very different things. If you suffer damages you can sue them for damages. I guess you could also seek an injunction if you can claim they are a nuisance to you.

IANAL etc.

As with most legal questions, the answer varies by jurisdiction. In Wisconsin, it’s possible for private citizens to criminally pursue certain fraud cases when the district attorney declines. It’s horrifyingly technical and obscure, but if you really want the details I can dig them up.

I assume you’re referring to qui tam cases, which probably isn’t what elfoldo is looking for. (If he wants to stop the posting of illegal signs, then a qui tam is irrelevant – no fraud.)

You might be able to being a suit in equity to get an injunction which would prohibit the further placement of signs. It depends on the law which prohibits this. Sometimes, the law will allow for private suits. Sometimes it won’t. If it doesn’t specify, then probably the prosecutor is the only one who can bring a suit, but maybe not. You need to talk to an attorney in your jurisdiction.

If the placement of signs is causing you damage (for instance, if they’re being placed on your property, which does not appear to be the case) you might be able to sue them for damages to compensate you for the injury to your land. Or, you might be able to bring a nuisance suit (but that’s pretty unlikely).

What you really need to do is talk to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. No one here on this message board is going to know enough about your local law or the facts in this case to give you adequate advice.

–Cliffy, Esq.

P.S. I am not licensed in your jurisdiction, nor do I have a thorough knowledge of facts in this case. This makes me incompetent to render any legal advice on the subject. You are not my client. I am not your lawyer.

Thanks for all the replies. The signs are not on my property so it would be hard for me to quantify the damages. It looks like I will have to contact an attorney to see how to proceed.

You have piqued my curiousity. What is the nature of these signs? Whose property are they on? Why are they annoying or dangerous to you? Is it their presence or their message that you believe is illegal?