Local officials in Philadelphia have taken steps to follow up on their promise to enforce the city's illegal dumping laws by installing cameras in areas that are known dumping grounds. They are also promising to vigorously enforce the state's numerous laws that could apply to anyone who throws trash away illegally.
New Cameras to Detect Illegal Trash Dumping
District attorneys in Philadelphia have filed an astounding 175 criminal cases of illegal dumping in just the first five months of 2019.
The new initiative to prosecute people who dump garbage illegally has been helped by a closer partnership between the Police Department, the Streets Department, and the Office of Data Digital Management. The partnership has led to a very public push for people to report illegal dumping when they see it, as well as the installation of dozens of expensive surveillance cameras in areas notorious for producing random piles of trash.
A Review of Pennsylvania's Illegal Dumping Laws
There are several different laws that prosecutors can use to go after people they suspect of illegally disposing of trash. These laws run the spectrum of trash disposal, from low-level littering to dumping trash on an industrial scale.
At one end of those laws is 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3709, in the state's traffic code. This law forbids throwing trash from a moving vehicle and into a waterway, onto the highway, or onto private or public property. Penalties are typically fines of up to $300 and between eight and 16 hours of community service on a litter-cleaning crew.
A more severe violation is 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6501, in the state's criminal code. This law is also more general than the traffic code's provision against litter, as it prohibits throwing trash on public or private property in any manner, not just from a moving vehicle. Penalties for a first offense include between $50 and $300 in fines, up to 90 days in jail, and between five and 30 hours of community service on a litter-cleaning crew. Subsequent offenses are misdemeanors and carry between $300 and $1,000 in fines, a jail sentence of six months to one year, and 30 to 100 hours of service on a litter-cleaning crew.
No Intent Necessary
Fighting allegations of illegal dumping or littering are tricky because neither statute requires the defendant to have littered intentionally or even knowingly. Both of the following scenarios can lead to convictions:
- A home renovator finishes a project and piles debris and trash into his pickup truck, and then pulls into an abandoned alleyway on his way home and unloads everything into the alley
- A man hauling 15 wooden pallets in his pickup truck reaches his destination to find that he only has 14 because one flew off, and does not go back to pick it up
Joseph D. Lento: Criminal Defense in Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia. If you have been arrested and accused of littering or illegal dumping in the city, he can help you fight the charge by showing you did nothing wrong or helping you secure an outcome you can live with. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353.