Longmont, Colo. — The Longmont Municipal Court dismissed the case against Raymond “Rich” Smith, who was charged in December 2014 with the “crime” of repairing windshields. Mr. Smith’s received notification of the Court’s decision on Friday.
Mr. Smith had been operating a windshield chip repair business in the parking lot of the hotel he manages. The City of Longmont claimed that operating a “mobile” windshield repair shop violated the City’s zoning code.
The city made these claims despite the fact that other mobile businesses, such as food trucks, were operating elsewhere around Longmont and national windshield repair and replacement services were sending technicians out in vans to customers’ homes and workplaces to make repairs.
“This decision is a victory for entrepreneurs,” said Jim Manley, senior attorney at the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, which represented Mr. Smith. “To make the assertion that repairing a windshield in a commercial parking lot is a crime was not only laughable, it was unconstitutional,” Manley said.
Mr. Smith had operated his windshield repair business for years, but after a competitor complained, the city began looking for ways to shut the business down, Manley said. The City cited Mr. Smith for operating a mobile business, even though his repair van is permanently parked and customers come to him. After receiving several zoning citations that didn’t apply to his business, Smith was ultimately hauled into court on an entirely different set of violations. The Court sentenced Smith to a year of probation, ordered him to pay a $385 fine, and assessed a 20-day suspended jail sentence – all for operating a windshield chip repair business out of a van parked on private property.
The Goldwater Institute appealed Mr. Smith’s conviction to the Boulder District Court, arguing that the City was violating its own zoning code and the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions. The District Court threw out the conviction and sent the case back to the municipal court for further proceedings. The dismissal puts an end to the case, and Mr. Smith’s attorneys are seeking assurances from the City that he will not be prosecuted again when he goes back to work
“The City of Longmont did the right thing by dismissing this case,” said Manley. “Cities around the country are using vague zoning ordinances to stifle entrepreneurship and competition. For the benefit of the economy and the constitution, other municipalities should take note of Longmont’s decision and follow Longmont’s lead.
“By abandoning its prosecution of this non-crime, Longmont showed that common sense can still prevail in our over-regulated society, avoiding serious constitutional problems that would have forced the city to spend years in court defending its actions.”