You may have seen “Do Not Litter” or “No Littering” signs posted everywhere. Usually posted in public spaces such as bus stops, outdoor parks and parking lots, you can also find these signs in private properties and establishments such as malls and restaurants. But are there consequences for violating these warnings?
Littering in Arizona is a punishable offense. You could face criminal charges if you disregard these signs and throw your trash or pollutants anywhere but a designated disposal container.
Criminal littering and polluting
Per state law, a person commits criminal littering or polluting if they do any of the following:
- Throwing away, dropping or permitting someone else to drop any litter on public property or another person’s property that’s not a lawful dump.
- Discharging or permitting someone else to discharge any sewage, oil products or other harmful substances into any waters.
- Dumping any earth, soil, stones, ores or minerals on any land.
The law is broad, covering littering and wholesale polluting. The penalties for criminal littering and polluting depend on how much waste was recklessly dumped.
If a person violates the law by dumping more than 300 pounds in weight or 100 cubic feet in volume worth of trash or waste material, they can face a Class 6 felony charge. A conviction leads to up to three years in prison and $150,000 in fines.
The offense is also a Class 6 felony if the offender dumps any amount of waste for a commercial purpose, such as discharging toxic wastewater from a factory into a nearby river.
If the amount of litter or waste substance is more than 100 pounds in weight but less than 300 pounds, or more than 35 cubic feet in volume but less than 100 cubic feet, the offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction leads to up to six months of jail time and $2,500 in fines.
If the offense isn’t punishable by any of the above but involves placing destructive or injury-causing materials (such as a deliberately placed oil slick) on or within 50 feet of a highway, beach or shoreline, it’s also a Class 1 misdemeanor.
For persons caught littering or dumping waste that’s not punishable by any of the penalties above, the offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A conviction leads to up to four months of jail time and $750 in fines.
You might think the various “Please don’t litter” signs are empty threats, but in Arizona, you could be punished if an officer catches you littering. A criminal charge for littering can lead to fines and even jail time, so don’t underestimate the consequences that await you.