Virtually everyone would agree that littering is bad and really should be avoided at all costs.  Indeed, most people recognize that indiscriminately littering adversely affects communities and the environment.   Yet, every day we see signs of littering everywhere, often times despite conveniently located trash cans. 
Why do people litter?  It’s not always easy to place a finger on the exact reason for littering, but some possibilities include:  (1) apathy, (2) inconvenience, (3) a sense of entitlement as a taxpayer, (4) prior experiences and education, and (5) a form of herd mentality where just the presence of other litter leads to more littering.     While there’s undoubtedly a sweeping consensus that people should not litter in America, strong differences of opinion exist over the appropriate consequence for littering.    Some firmly believe that a non-criminal monetary penalty, community service and/or picking up litter for some prescribed time is punishment enough, whereas others unquestionably feel that it is a criminal act warranting the possibility of a criminal record, fines, and jail time.

What is the punishment for littering in Virginia?

            In Virginia, people mistakenly believe that a small fine is the worst thing that can happen to them from littering.  Those people are flat wrong.  In fact, you can end up in jail!  If you litter on public or private property in Virginia, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor (criminal) punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to 12 months in jail.  (See Virginia Code §33.1-346.)  Both state and many local (county and municipal) codes criminalize forms of littering, although the definitions relating to littering may vary.

Cigarette Butts

            So why did we specifically mention butts in the title?  By no means are we singling out smokers.  Like it or not, people from all walks of life litter.  However, the term “butt” did allow for a catchier title, and cigarette butts, along with beverage containers, are some of the most frequently discarded items.    

Don’t Go it Alone

If you have been charged with littering in Virginia, don't make the mistake of trying to go it alone without hiring a lawyer.  We are experienced Virginia criminal defense attorneys who will aggressively fight and, where appropriate, negotiate your charge in an effort to achieve the best possible result.