The Dark Side of Philadelphia Issuing 70,000 Tickets Per Year for Littering

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jul 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

A recent news story covered an ongoing focus of law enforcement in Philadelphia – ticketing people for littering. While the practice has definite benefits like clean streets, there are problems with enforcing the tickets and inherent injustices that will never go away.

Littering Task Force Averages 70,000 Tickets Per Year

According to the expose by Philadelphia's ABC News chapter, the Sanitation Enforcement wing of the Philadelphia Streets Department has issued an astounding 216,000 litter citations over the last three years. Those tickets brought in more than $6 million in fines.

The supervisor, Vincent Mason, has 40 workers patrolling the streets of Philadelphia. While he thinks that's enough, he also says that he could use more.

The Inherent Injustice of Ticketing the Poor

The overwhelmingly vast majority of those 216,000 litter tickets went to people who live in poor neighborhoods. Many of these people have been ticketed for littering because they don't have the trash cans to contain their garbage, once they put it on the curb. For many of these people, they are being ticketed for littering because they live in a bad neighborhood. Many of them have had their trash cans stolen or broken, and have either not had the money or the time to replace them, or have decided not to buy another trash can only to have that one disappear, too.

But now they're being ticketed for littering because they didn't have a trash can.

Most of these littering tickets are around $50. For someone barely getting by, already, it can be a harsh blow.

The Trickle-Down Effect of Littering Tickets Against the Poor

As one would expect, ticketing poor people has some foreseeable results: Many people don't have the money to pay the tickets and have neither the time nor the money to pay to defend against them.

An estimated 40% of the littering tickets go unpaid. A lot of the people who get ticketed simply ignore the fine. When the ticket turns into a court date, most people don't go. Additional penalties accumulate until a lien is placed on their property. While most of the people ticketed rent their homes rather than own them, they do often own a car.

Outstanding tickets for littering can prevent them from re-registering it in Philadelphia. If they choose not to register it, they can get pulled over and their car can get impounded. Impounding fees accumulate, can't be paid, and the car is – for all intents and purposes – lost.

Joseph D. Lento: Criminal Defense in Philadelphia

Many people see the huge number of littering tickets issued in Philadelphia and think that it's nothing but a good thing. The streets are getting cleaned and messy people are getting ticketed for throwing their trash around.

Unfortunately, the truth – and the repercussions of that truth – is far more nuanced. Even those who did leave their trash out can be facing legal problems that they were largely powerless to avoid. Those legal problems can grow exponentially until they are threatening someone's very livelihood.

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who strives to contain the fallout of legal problems like these. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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