May 20, 2008
CONNECTICUT'S LITTERING LAW
By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst
You asked about littering fines in Connecticut, recent changes in the littering law, and how the amount of the fine compares with fines in other states.
Connecticut has had an anti-littering law since at least 1897, when people who threw nails, tacks, scrap iron, and certain other debris on highways or streets could be fined $20. The law and the fine have changed many times since. We have attached OLR Report 2002-R-0220, which describes the law's history.
The most recent changes occurred in 2005, when the legislature specifically prohibited anyone from throwing, scattering, spilling, placing; causing such actions to occur; or otherwise improperly disposing of, any litter in a state or municipal park, state forest, or other publicly-owned land open to the public for recreation (“public land”). (The law already barred these activities on other types of public property, in state waters and on someone else's property.) In 2001, the legislature changed the penalty for littering from an infraction to a fine of up to $199 (PA 01-204). In 2005, the legislature imposed a surcharge of half the fine on people convicted of littering on public land (PA 05-234).
The penalties for littering in other states vary widely, sometimes based on the amount and type of litter. Enumerated fines range from $50 in Washington to $15,000 for two or more offenses in Massachusetts. In addition to imposing fines, some states also suspend violators' driver's licenses, require them to remove litter, or order them to perform community service. This report updates information in OLR Report 2002-R-0220 on littering penalties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and includes information about Washington.
CONNECTICUT LITTERING LAW
The law prohibits people from throwing, scattering, spilling, placing, or causing to be blown, scattered, spilled, thrown, or placed, litter
1. on state public property,
2. on state public land,
3. on private property belonging to another, or
4. in state waters.
This prohibition extends to public highways and parks, beaches, campgrounds, forest land, recreational areas, mobile home parks, highways, roads, streets, and alleys. Public land is a state park or forest, municipal park, or any other publicly-owned land open to the public for active or passive recreation.
Litter is any discarded, used, or unconsumed substance or waste material, including (1) bottles, cans, jars, and their detachable tops; (2) unlit cigarettes, cigars, and matches; (3) any flaming or glowing material, or (4) any garbage, trash, refuse, debris, rubbish, grass clippings, lawn or garden waste, newspapers, magazines, or glass, metal, plastic or paper containers, or other packaging or construction material (CGS §22a-248(4)).
Littering does not occur if a person is authorized to dispose of waste on property the state or a municipality has designated for such use, or if someone properly deposits waste in a receptacle.
By law, litter thrown, blown, scattered, or spilled from a motor vehicle is prima facie evidence that the operator littered.
Penalties for Littering
Anyone who violates the littering law may be fined up to $199. One-half the fine must be paid to the municipality in which the arrest was
made, unless a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officer or patrolman made the arrest, in which case one-half the fine must be paid to DEP. The other half of the fine must be paid to the state.
By law, the court must also impose a surcharge on people convicted of littering on public land, equal to one-half the amount of the fine. The surcharge must be paid to the municipality in which the arrest was made, unless a DEP officer or patrolman made the arrest, in which case the surcharge must be paid to DEP (CGS § 22a-250).
LITTERING PENALTIES IN OTHER STATES
Littering on or within 20 yards of a public highway, on public land or coastal or inland waters or within 20 yards of those waters, on someone else's property, or on open space land, is a crime for which violators may be fined up to $5,500 for a first offense and up to $15,000 for each subsequent offense. Half the fine must be paid to the state's Conservation Trust. The court may order the person to remove the litter at his own expense (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 270 § 16).
The law alternatively authorizes law enforcement officers who witness littering to order the litterer to appear in court to pay a non-criminal fine. Fines are $20 for the first three offenses committed in a calendar year and $100 for subsequent offenses within the calendar year. Anyone who fails to pay the fine is subject to criminal charges (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 270 § 16A). In addition, the registrar of motor vehicles may suspend for up to seven days the driver's license of operators who litter from their car, or who knowingly permit others to do so (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 90 § 22G).
In addition, Massachusetts law allows police who observe someone illegally disposing of more than seven cubic feet of trash from a motor vehicle to seize the vehicle (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 270 § 16).
Littering is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $2,000. Alternatively, a court may order the individual to pick up and remove litter he has deposited, as well as litter left at the site by anyone else. If the litter was thrown from a motor vehicle, the person's license also may be suspended for up to seven days. The court must publish the names of convicted litterers (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 163-B: 4).
Littering is punishable by a fine of between $100 and $500. The fine goes to the town where the offense occurred to help pay for litter control and removal. In addition, a court may order the offender to perform between 20 and 40 hours of community service, including litter pickup and removal from any public property or from any private property (with the owner's permission) where the littering occurred.
A person who commits two offenses within six months can be fined between $250 and $1,000 for the second offense, and sentenced to up to 60 days in jail. In addition, he or she may be ordered to perform between 40 and 80 hours of community service, including litter pickup and removal from any public property or from any private property, with the owner's permission (N. J. Stat. Ann. § 13:1E-99.3).
A first-time litterer may be fined between $55 and $500. Individuals paying $55 fines can do so by mail instead of going to court. The court also may order the offender to pick up litter for between two and 25 hours. Subsequent offenders may be fined between $300 and $500. The court also may order subsequent offenders to pick up litter for between four and 50 hours. Anyone convicted of littering is also liable for the costs of removing the litter he or she deposited. The court may hold the registration of a vehicle owned by the violator and used in littering until the offender pays these costs (R. I. Gen Laws § 37-15-7).
People who throw or dump solid waste or refuse of any nature outside a solid waste management facility are subject to fines of up to $500 and may be ordered to spend up to 80 hours collecting trash or litter from a specified portion of a road or a specified area of public property. Failure to pay the fine results in suspension of an individual's driver's license for 10 days and revocation of his or her hunting or fishing license for one year from the date of conviction. (Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 24 § 2201).
Washington sets minimum fines for littering by state law (RCW 70.93), but fees or assessments may be added as the violation is processed, increasing the amount the violator must pay. There are different fines for different violations, depending on the quantity of litter or the hazard it presents (for example, depositing lit debris, such as a cigarette, or failing to secure a load). For non-hazardous littering, the state-imposed penalties range from $50 for littering an amount less than or equal to 1 cubic foot to up to $5,000 up to one year in jail, or both for littering an amount greater than a cubic yard. A detailed table of Washington littering penalties can be found at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/PROGRAMS/SWFA/litter/fines.html.