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Guest editorial: Law changes can advance litter battle

August 19, 2018

South Carolina’s laws against littering should become more effective and enforceable with approval of amendments in 2018.

Revising the laws was needed to give officers and the courts greater flexibility in the prosecution of litter cases.

A key component of Act 214 makes it easier to achieve court-ordered community service/litter pickup by removing the requirement for supervision. The litter-gathering community service portion of the penalty may not be suspended, except the court may, upon request, accept an additional monetary penalty equal to $15 per hour in lieu of the community service. Probation may be granted only due to physical or other incapacities.

Act 214 also defines litter and illegal dumping as separate offenses, ending confusion that has resulted when enforcing violations on both public and privately owned properties.

It allows greater discretion for fines to “fit the crime” and will allow for more officer participation in enforcing litter laws.

The changes to the law “opened our law enforcement tool box a little wider for those of us who tirelessly work to protect our state’s beauty and cleanliness,” said Jamie Nelson, director of Environmental Enforcement for Spartanburg County, via a press release.

Nelson represented the South Carolina Litter Control Association during the legislative process seeking to strengthen laws against littering. SCLCA is comprised of litter and code-enforcement officers specifically assigned to handle litter concerns.

“We have heard the concerns of law enforcement entities about the fines and from judges in upholding the fines or assigning community service,” Nelson said. “Act 214 takes away those barriers. There are no excuses anymore for not writing the tickets.”

Changes in the law are a positive step, but they alone will not result in an end to the litter problem. While those deserving punishment should receive it in sufficient doses to make people aware the litter laws are real, putting a halt to littering is about pride.

For the majority of people not littering, those who do are mysteries. The questions remain: “Where have they been? Do they not know any better? Do they really care so little about their surroundings? Do they care about anything?”

Perhaps tougher enforcement of litter laws and stiffer penalties for violating them will get their attention and produce a change in behavior.

— The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg

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