A: Dothan Police Sgt. Brad Cain said he can see where it might be perceived that people are throwing unwanted debris all over the place.
He said a majority of things on the roadway are items that have blown out of vehicles, trash cans or trash trucks.
He said the general public is out there in greater numbers than law enforcement, but doubts they witness a scourge of litterbugs getting away with their crimes because a police officer isn’t there.
Cain said officers often witness crimes for which a warning is given and no citation or arrest is made.
“I have asked around and found most all the officers who witness littering (throwing cigarette butts or soda cans out of a moving vehicle) simply perform a traffic stop and give the driver the option to go back and pick the item up or get the ticket,” according to Cain.
Cain has been in law enforcement for 17 years and said he still believes most people are law-abiding folks.
To write a citation, an officer needs evidence that a crime has been committed. Littering comes in many forms and only some of them constitute a crime.
Under Alabama Code 13A-7-29, criminal littering occurs if a person knowingly or negligently deposits litter on public or private property or in any public or private waters without permission to do so.
The code defines litter as “rubbish, refuse, waste material, garbage, dead animals or fowl, offal, paper, glass, cans, bottles, trash, scrap metal, debris, or any foreign substance of whatever kind and description, and whether or not it is of value.”
Criminal littering is a Class C misdemeanor. The minimum fine for the first conviction is $250, and the fine for the second and any subsequent conviction is $500 for each conviction.
The criminal littering statute also applies to Alabama Code 32-5A-60, which prohibits putting glass, etc., on highway, road, street or public right-of-way or throwing litter onto a highway.
Cain said citations can be written in the Title 32 application and arrest can be made in the Title 13 version.
According to the fee/fine schedule under “Instructions to defendant – traffic cases” on the city’s website, the fine and court cost for littering on a highway is $284.50. The fine is $100 and a court cost of $184.50 is added to the fine.
Unauthorized dumping and spilling a load is a crime. So is unauthorized accumulation of refuse, where a person allows garbage, trash, paper or litter to accumulate in such a manner that it can be scattered or blown onto any street, public place, the premises of others or that premises.
As far as changing behavior on littering, various strategies have been used. Providing more bins for the public to use, keeping areas clean so people are less likely to litter and the presence and actions of other people all have an impact.
Cain said there are programs like Adopt A Mile that utilize volunteers to pick up debris on a specific route. According to the Alabama PALS (People Against A Littered State) website, the organization has partnered with the Alabama Department of Transportation since 1988 to coordinate and implement the Alabama Adopt a Mile Program.
Approximately 860 miles of state, U.S. and county highways are adopted and maintained by volunteer groups statewide.
Alabama PALS also has Adopt An Area, Adopt A Stream, Clean Campus and other cleanup programs.