Using Someone Else’s Dumpster: Legal or Illegal?

Question:  Has Fred “done a good deed”?

Answer:    Although Fred has “done a good deed” in a moral sense by ensuring that the Hefty bags will be safely delivered to the landfill, he violated Ohio law by using someone else’s dumpster without permission.

Ohio Revised Code section 3767.32 is entitled “Littering”.  Section (A) of the statute addresses the traditional form of littering.  However, the lesser-known Section (B) of the statute addresses quite a different situation.  According to Section (B):

(B)    No person, without privilege to do so, shall knowingly deposit litter, or cause it to be deposited, in a litter receptacle located on any public property or on any private property not owned by the person unless one of the following applies:

(1)    The litter was generated or located on the property on which the litter receptacle is located;

(2)    The person is directed to do so by a public official as part of a litter collection drive;

(3)    The person is directed to do so by a person whom the person reasonably believes to have the privilege to use the litter receptacle;

(4)    The litter consists of any of the following:

(a)     The contents of a litter bag or container of a type and size customarily carried and used in a motor vehicle;

(b)    The contents of an ash tray of a type customarily installed or carried and used in a motor vehicle;

(c)     Beverage containers and food sacks, wrappings, and containers of a type and in an amount that reasonably may be expected to be generated during routine commuting or business or recreational travel by a motor vehicle;

(d)    Beverage containers, food sacks, wrappings, containers, and other materials of a type and in an amount that reasonably may be expected to be generated during a routine day by a person and deposited in a litter receptacle by a casual passerby.

The purpose behind the statute is clear.  Owning or leasing a dumpster (or other trash receptacle) is not a free service.  Unless the small amount of trash permitted by (B)(4) is deposited, someone else will have to foot the bill for this service, even if only a small fraction of the dumpster’s space is used and it has no direct adverse effect on the owner.

It is worth noting that there is no distinction between whether the dumpster was located on public or private property.  If it had occurred at a local business, as opposed to a public school, it would still violate the Littering statute.  It is further worth noting that ignorance of the law is not a defense.  Thus, if a concerned citizen reported Fred’s actions to the police, Fred could still be charged with a violation of the Littering statute, even if he explained that he was not aware of this particular section of the statute.

Violation of this statute constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree.  If convicted of such an offense, the court may sentence the offender up to sixty (60) days in jail and issue a fine up to five hundred dollars ($500).  Furthermore, pursuant to Revised Code section 3767.99(C), the court may order Fred to return to the property and remove his trash.   If you find yourself in such a situation, as even a misdemeanor of the third degree can have other serious ramifications in addition to those stated above.

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About Jon Horwitz

Jon Horwitz is an experienced criminal defense lawyer dedicated to helping people charged of a crime. He is dedicated to providing honest, straightforward advice and advocacy in order to get the best possible result for each client. Jon currently lives in Centerville with his wife and two children. He coaches basketball through the Centerville Hustle organization and is a former soccer coach. He continues to play soccer and is an avid fan of the sport.

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