South Carolina lawmakers create new tool to enforce litter laws

South Carolina lawmakers have written new legislation that aims to help litter control efforts. House Bill 4458 (H. 4458) revises the state code that addresses litter providing new regulations for community service, defining illegal dumping and changing fines based on weights and types of violations.

The goal of this legislation is to hone the tool that officers and judges use to enforce state litter laws. The changes requested in this legislation have been researched and well-thought out, based on experiences that SC officers have dealt with in the field and in the court room.

What does H. 4458 do?

  • This legislation updates the definition of litter using Section 44-96-40 of SC Code of Laws and additional items including cigarette and cigarette components. This closes possible loopholes that could arise in court.
  • This legislation updates the community service component making it easier for judges to assign community service hours by eliminating the need for mandatory supervision. Community service is a great tool for communities to tackle littered roadways, but the current law mandates supervised community service which places a burden on local government departments who do not have the resources to supervise people. The proposed bill allows for people to be assigned pick up litter for community service without supervision. Although the option for unsupervised community service will be available, there will be accountability procedures in place to assure that work is being done.
  • H. 4458 creates a fine range amount of no less than $25.00 or more than $100.00 for a violation under 15 pounds, small items less such as a cigarette butt, small plastic item, aluminum can, bottle or any other light weight item. These are the items commonly tossed out a moving window or discarded by a pedestrian. Under the current law, the minimum fine is $467 for littering, which many officers and judges feel is too steep. This results in officers choosing to issue warnings instead of tickets or judges tossing out tickets. Giving a fine range that officers and judges feel is more appropriate for the type of litter, will allow for more tickets to be issued and upheld in court.
  • In addition to the changing fines for “small items”, and perhaps more importantly, this bill defines illegal dumping. Littering and illegal dumping are two different crimes. Littering is mostly negligent while the intent of illegal dumping is to defile someone’s private property or public property. A person littering less than 15 pounds, like a cigarette butt or an empty fast food bag, does not have the same intent as the person who drives a truck or car filled with trash bags, broken toys, an old television, and other household trash and dumps them along a side road or a construction company dumping a truck load of shingles and other construction and demolition debris on someone else’s private property.
  • H. 4458 mandates that illegal dumping occurs when the discarded items are more than 15 pounds and provides a fine amount range of not less than $200 dollars or more than $500 dollars. It also provides for mandatory community service hours that increase with each offense.
  • This legislation does not supersede local ordinances.

H. 4458 addresses other issues that citizen, law enforcement officers and governments deal with every day in the battle to end littering. This bill updates existing law with suggestions based on our state’s officers’ real-life experiences and research from what other states are doing. South Carolina is not the only state dealing with hard to manage litter issues. Louisiana, Tennessee, Washington, Massachusetts are just a handful dealing with ordinance changes or challenges with pickup. Higher fines have not made a dent in litter control efforts. It is time to try another approach, one that aims to identify and treat littering versus illegal dumping as separate offenses with penalties to match.

H. 4458 has passed the House and is awaiting debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee. For more details on the bill, please contact Sarah Lyles at 877-725-7733 or [email protected].

1 Comment

  1. Terry Hamlin on March 8, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Littering and dumping are out of control because they are ignored by our officials. There has been a pile of trash, including an old TV in the first Natl Forest road on Halfway Creek Rd for weeks. We just cleaned it in January. I think high fines should be mandatory and officers that ignore what they see(and I have watched them ignore litterers), should be suspended. I served, by the way. I live here and this place is getting worse by the day. Why can’t in mates rotate through the whole state and each county. Other states manage to do this, including one of the poorest states in the union (Mississippi). Sickening.

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