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District Court Overturns Criminal Conviction of Longmont, Colorado Windshield Repairman

December 12, 2015

Longmont, Colo.—Today a Boulder County District Court Judge overturned a Longmont, Colorado municipal court judge’s conviction of Rich Smith for the “crime” of repairing windshields. In the decision, the Court sent the case back to the municipal court for additional hearings.

Mr. Smith had served the community for years, but after a competitor complained, the City began looking for ways to shut down his business. 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 Mr. Smith’s business, he was ultimately hauled into court on an entirely different set of violations. Smith had been sentenced to one year of probation, a $385 fine, and a 20-day suspended jail sentence for operating a windshield chip repair business out of a van parked on his private property.

“Today’s decision is a victory for both entrepreneurs and common sense. If the City of Longmont insists on continuing this embarrassing case, it needs to explain how repairing windshields in a commercial parking lot is a crime in the first place,” said Jim Manley, senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute. The Goldwater Institute is representing Smith.

Longmont allows some of the nationally known windshield repair and replacement services, like Safelite Auto Glass, to operate in the city by sending technicians out in a van to a customer’s home or work. They also allow mobile food trucks to operate. Other businesses like caterers, handyman services, and plumbers are also allowed to operate out of a van or truck where supplies are stored and the business has no storefront.

“No one at the City has been able to explain why Mr. Smith’s business must be shut down and he is a criminal, but others just like it can operate throughout the city, including other windshield repair vans and food trucks,” said Manley.

Even though Longmont allows other businesses just like Smith’s to operate, the City said he is required to open a brick and mortar business. But an increasingly large number of businesses have no brick and mortar location that customers can visit, like, Uber, and Airbnb. They are mobile or virtual. The requirement to have a physical location would be devastating to today’s economy.

Threatening to lock up entrepreneurs and banning their perfectly safe businesses for no reason is not just bad policy, it is unconstitutional. Americans are protected by the federal and state constitutions from being singled out by the government. “I hope the City stops wasting taxpayers resources trying to put Mr. Smith out of business,” said Manley.

The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation appealed Rich Smith’s criminal conviction and will represent him in his ongoing legal battle with the City.

Read more about Smith v. City of Longmont here.


About the Goldwater Institute

The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.



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