Many people don't realize that littering in Virginia is a Misdemeanor. In fact, we've had police officers in our cases not even realize it themselves (which was helpful because charging them with a misdemeanor was not their intent in some cases). Many of our littering cases in Fairfax County come through the door because a cigarette butt was thrown out the window on the highway or simply on the ground near a bar or restaurant. In other cases, a food wrapper or cup is discarded. We are starting to see more of these charges and want to ensure that people are aware that it's not a simple charge. Simply put, there is one retired Judge in Fairfax County that will put a person in jail for a night if this comes through his courtroom...no joke! However, there are things we can do to help get this charge either reduced or dismissed.
Virginia Code §33.1-346 is the statute that makes it illegal to litter on public property or private property if there is no consent by the owner to do so. The statute further articulates that a conviction carries up to 12 months in jail with up to a $2500 fine (with $250 being the minimum fine). In lieu of jail, the person can complete 10 hours of community service in littering abatement activities upon order of the Court.
In our littering cases, we will have the person do community service before Court. This initial step goes a long way towards a successful outcome in the case. For those that have a hectic schedule, our "Plan B" is to have them make a generous donation to a wildlife fund or park.
Feel free to give us a call for a free consultation and we would be happy to discuss your case and your available options. We strongly recommend you don't go to court on your own for this charge so you have the best chance to remain free from having disclose to employers and schools of a misdemeanor conviction on your record. Even if the Judge does not put you in jail for littering and gives you a low fine, the remaining consequences are avoidable.