Illinois Law Update Means Big Penalties For Cigarette Litter - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Illinois Law Update Means Big Penalties For Cigarette Litter

Updated: Dec 10, 2013 10:14 PM
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     Cigarette smokers get ready to face big penalties if caught tossing your cigarette on the ground in Illinois. On January 1st an update to the state's littering law will take effect and it will mean hefty fines and potentially a felony conviction.

     First time caught flicking a cigarette butt on the ground will be a class B misdemeanor with fine up to $1.500. A 2nd conviction could carry the same fine, but is a class A misdemeanor. At strike three it turns into a class 4 felony with a potential $25,000 fine and even jail time. Earlier this year lawmakers voted on this change. While many think the penalties are steep, there's hope it will curb the problem.

     "They are really small but in so much quantity it causes a problem," said Andrew Dacon who sees positives and negatives on the amendment to the state's littering law.

     Up until now, cigarette litter in Illinois was covered only by local ordinances resulting in minor fines or penalties. But starting in the new year cigarettes are included in the definition of litter under state code, which is where the new consequences come from.

      "I think you ought to give them a warning the first time, not no $1,500 that's kind of steep," said Bernie Heaton. As a smoker he says he doesn't discard his butts on the ground but sees it happen a lot either on sidewalks or from drivers tossing them out the window.

     Others are fully on board with the stiffer penalties to help combat the issue. "I don't know how you're going to enforce that situation but everyone should be liable. 100 percent responsibility," said Johnnie Gillam who agrees with the penalties.

     Enforcement may be tough says Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd. He doesn't know how successful it will be, particularly in cases involving felony charges.

     "You have to have evidence to proceed against someone. That can either be by sight, you can take a complaint," said Sheriff Boyd.

       But he thinks the law has good intentions. "I have pulled somebody over before for discarding a cigarette butt that actually landed on my squad car and it was burning, ashing. It actually burnt the paint on my squad car," added Boyd.

     Business and private property owners may also face consequences if they do not provide enough waste receptacles for smokers. In Iowa littering is considered a simple misdemeanor. A person can face fines of several hundred dollars, up to 30 days in jail, or the court may order labor of litter cleanup.