Illegal dumping

Law enforcement in the Houston area regularly cite or arrest people for the illegal dumping of solid waste (which can include all sorts of materials including garbage, old furniture or construction materials). Depending on the type of material disposed of and the amount, illegal dumping can be charged anywhere from a Class “C” misdemeanor to a felony. No matter how an illegal dumping case is charged, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to maximize your chances of keeping the charge off of your record.

How is illegal dumping charged in Texas? 

Under Texas Health and Safety Code 365.012 illegal dumping can be charged for improperly disposing of litter or solid waste in a place that is not an approved disposal site. “Solid waste” includes all types of garbage, including liquid and solid trash and discarded material of all kinds. In the Houston area, illegal dumping is frequently charged for the improper disposal of items such as furniture, trash, car parts or construction materials. 

Illegal dumping will be charged as a Class “C” misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, for receiving or transporting solid waste weighing under five pounds or with a volume of five gallons or less. The penalty for discarding lighted litter that leads to a fire being ignited can include a jail sentence of up to 30 days. 

If the litter weighs more than 5 pounds but less than 500 pounds or has a volume of more than five gallons but less than 200 cubic feet, illegal dumping will be charged as a Class “B” misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine. 

Illegal dumping will be charged as a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4000 fine if the litter weighs 500 pounds or more but less than 1000 pounds, the litter is disposed for a commercial purpose and weighs more than 5 pounds or more but less than 200 pounds or has a volume of more than five gallons but less than 200 cubic feet.

Illegal dumping will be charged as a State Jail felony, punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, if the litter weighs 1000 pounds or more or has a volume of 200 cubic feet or more, or is disposed of for commercial purposes and weighs 200 pounds or more or has a volume of 200 cubic feet or more, or is contained in a closed barrel or drum. 

Any of these offenses will be charged one punishment level higher if it is shown that the defendant has previously been convicted of illegal dumping. Unlike most criminal offenses in Texas, illegal dumping can be charged without alleging any culpable mental state (for example, that the person knowingly disposed of waste in an improper manner). 

What should you do if you are cited for illegal dumping?

You should not panic if you have been arrested for illegal dumping. If you have been arrested for illegal dumping, you should make sure to appear in court and follow all bond conditions issued by the judge. After bonding out of jail, it is important that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to appear in court with you and help you fight the charge. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through the court process and ensure that you have the best chance of keeping an illegal dumping charge off of your record. 

How can you get an illegal dumping case dismissed?

In order to work towards getting an illegal dumping case dismissed, your criminal defense lawyer will first want to review the evidence in the case. In illegal dumping cases, the evidence typically consists of offense reports, 911 calls, witness statements and surveillance tapes. An effective criminal defense attorney will first try to get the case dismissed by establishing that the State cannot prove a basic element of the charge (it is always the prosecutor’s burden to prove all of the elements of a criminal charge). For example, if the identity of the person who is alleged to have dumped the waste cannot be established that could lead to the dismissal of the case. Another way of getting an illegal dumping case dismissed is by showing that a statutory defense exists, for example, that 

Even if it appears that the prosecutor can establish that a defendant is guilty of illegal dumping, there may still be ways of getting the case dismissed. In Houston, illegal dumping cases are frequently handled by the environmental crimes section of the Harris County District Attorney’s office. It is possible for an experienced criminal defense lawyer to negotiate a dismissal of an illegal dumping case with this division under certain circumstances, for example, if the defendant has a minimal criminal history or is less culpable for some reason (for example, he did not know that he was not permitted to dump materials at a location). 

How can you keep an illegal dumping arrest off of your record? 

In Texas, the best way to wipe an illegal dumping case off of your record is by getting an expunction of the charge. An expunction is considered to be the best result in an illegal dumping case as it results in all records of the arrest being physically destroyed. Once an illegal dumping case is expunged, it will no longer appear on most criminal history searches, and the defendant can even deny the existence of the arrest in most circumstances. In order to get an expunction, however, an illegal dumping case must be dismissed, or you must be acquitted at trial. 

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who has helped clients throughout the Houston area clear their names after an illegal dumping arrest. If you have been charged with illegal dumping anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today.