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Friday, May 14, 2021

Campbell County Attorney: "Littering is not only disrespectful, it's illegal"

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By Steve Franzen, Campbell County Attorney 
 
I, like many of you, spent a great deal of time outdoors during 2020. It was disappointing to see areas of our beautiful county littered with trash, old appliances, construction material and many other unsightly items and debris. These eyesores were particularly evident during the winter months when the vegetation was off the trees and the shrubbery. 
 
2000 Memorial Parkway. 

We often prosecute cases in District Court for criminal littering when someone throws a bag of trash out of a car window or dumps piles of trash along a city or county road.  Kentucky’s law on criminal littering covers the above situations but also several additional types of littering. Litter is defined as any rubbish, refuse, waste material, offal, papers, glass, cans, bottles, trash, debris or any foreign substance of whatever kind whether or not it is of value. Under Kentucky law, a person is guilty of criminal littering when he: 
 
A) Drops, or permits to drop, on a highway, any destructive or injurious material and does not immediately remove it.  (e.g., if a construction company loses large building materials off of the truck and fails to clean it up immediately); or  
 
B) Knowingly places or throws litter on any public or private property or in any public or private waterway without permission (e.g., deciding to throw trash out the window of your vehicle or deciding to dump any unwanted material along a road); or  
 
C) Negligently places or throws glass or other dangerous pointed or edged substances on or adjacent to water to which the public has access for swimming or wading or on or within fifty feet of a public highway (e.g., breaking a glass bottle near the highway); or 
 
D) Discharges sewage, minerals, oil products or litter into any public waters or lakes within the state (e.g., taking old oil and dumping it within the closest creek or lake). 
 
Criminal littering under Kentucky law is a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment for the Class A misdemeanor is a possible imprisonment that lasts between ninety (90) days to twelve (12) months. A potential fine of up to five-hundred ($500) dollars could be enforced.  In addition, we will typically require the Defendant to clean up whatever mess they made and pay any damages to the property owner where the littering occurred.   
 
The above seems like common sense to the law-abiding community.  Unfortunately, there is always that distinct minority of individuals that do not respect the basic concept of protecting our public property from accumulating trash, debris, or rubbish.  For that distinct minority, this criminal statute exists to hold them accountable.  
 
Rest assured that the County Attorney’s office, and the District Court judges, will take littering charges very seriously if brought to our attention. Please be mindful of your fellow residents and make sure that your trash and other discarded items are properly disposed of. Not only is it common courtesy, and decency, it is the law! 
 
I hope you have found this information helpful. If you have any topics you would like to have covered in this column, please contact my office by e-mail at countyattorney@campbellcountyky.gov, by phone at 491-7700 or by regular mail addressed to 319 York Street, Newport, Kentucky 41071. 

Steven Franzen. 

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