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Matthew:

What's the scoop on the stuff that pitches up on my doorstep while I'm away from home? Flyers inviting me to try bottled water free for 30 days or take advantage of two-fer-one pizza deals clutter my porch; while plastic bags containing ads for car washes and free weight-loss seminars dangle uninvited from my doorknob. Is it legal for folks to toss bits of printed paper at my house front whenever they feel like it, or can I tell the scoundrels to send their minions back to remove the litter?

-- Vexed in Vista

A twofer pizza deal on your doorstep isn't exactly a flaming bag of dog poop. It's a free pizza. But if discounts and giveaways really tick you off, then sootcherself.

Yes, it's legal for people to toss bits of paper at your house more or less whenever they feel like it. The flyer brigade is legally permitted to walk on your property up to the first "impediment" they encounter, then affix their twofers and freebies to whatever that impediment is -- a fence, a wall, a screen door, a moat and drawbridge -- then go away. (I'm not sure if a pit bull or a pile of bicycles would qualify as a barrier in the legal sense.) If a distributor passes the impediment, say, by opening a screen door, then they need a solicitor's license. They can hang things on knobs, rubber-band them to fence posts, stick them under door mats, do pretty much whatever it takes to get your attention, short of putting it in your mailbox. That's federal territory.

There's no legal requirement that the distributors clean up your doorstep. According to a local ad distributor, what you can do is call the distributor or the company doing the advertising and say you don't want any more opportunities to save money. Your name goes on a "don't-distribute" list, and the next time the neighbors are offered free pizzas, you won't be. Or you can nail a "No Handbills" sign to your door (not a "No Solicitors" sign, that's something different). Or you can move to Calexico. For some reason, that city requires distributors to knock on each door and put the flyer directly into the hands of an adult member of the household.

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