“I was recently mailed a $75 citation for littering”

citation photo

“Dear PoPville,

I live on Capitol Hill. I was recently mailed a $75 citation for littering. Enclosed were an abundance of photos of my recycling bin, which someone had emptied of cardboard boxes (my empty mail with my address) and taken for their use, leaving my labeled cardboard beside another bin. I see people wedging oversized recycling between bins daily, and have been taking pictures of it, along with overstuffed recycling, broken furniture, boxes of political books no one takes, and every other sort of recyclable junk sitting around.

In this instance, when someone took the second bin, they placed the only remaining bin on top of the boxes they have moved. We normally have three bins, but as soon as they are emptied, people move them into their yards. The cause of the issue in my case is so blatant, someone wanting a used bin for their residence, that it infuriates me to know DC has the gonads to send someone such an expensive citation for it.

It seems I either pay the citation or take off work to schedule a hearing, either way throwing away money. Between my girlfriend and I, we have had both our vehicles broken into, a bike stolen, and mail stolen from our porch. This is generally a safe neighborhood, but I find it ridiculous that this is what the police spend their time doing rather than keeping people and property safe. Generating revenue is so obvious in our neighborhood.”


64 Comment

  • SouthwestDC

    You should be able to contest it by mail. I recently did with one of these things. Good luck!

    • Contact DPW, explain the situation, and ask them to rescind the ticket.
      For what it’s worth: DPW usually doesn’t do enforcement unless someone in the neighborhood specifically requested it. So it might be that a neighbor complained to DPW about broken furniture, etc. sitting around, or people not moving their bins back into their front yards as required… and the DPW inspector who came to take a look decided to write you up while he/she was out there. Not that that makes it any less unfair/annoying, but just some context.

      • Just be sure to reply immediately! I waited two days before mailing out my response (mailing it from Arlington may have delayed it also), and DPW replied that they wouldn’t review it because it hadn’t been received in a timely manner. So then I had to send another response explaining that I really didn’t take that long to reply, and begged them to review my original response.

    • Hello, Caroline. This was my citation. According to the letter, it can only be contested by hearing, which requires going in to both schedule one and to attend.

  • So if I want to get back at my neighbor, all I have to do is put some boxes in front of their house? Seems legit.

    • If you want to get back at your neighbor, you need to litter with mail that has their name and address on it. OP got the fine because the boxes were his/hers, not because they were in front of his/her house.

      • thanks for clearing that up for me. boy would I have looked dumb 🙂

      • In my experience the former would work as well. I got one of these for a property I manage.
        A neighbor’s cans ended up behind our property and we were fined for it. I contested it by sending pics of our cans with our address prominently spray painted on them to show the cans on the violation did not belong to us. The appeal was successful.

  • The police didn’t issue that ticket, DPW did, so please don’t bring law enforcement into the discussion. Also, how long was the cardboard sitting out there before the ticket was issued?

    • Actually I’m with johnston on this one. I do not believe DPW would issue this on the day recycling is picked up. And it’s almost always as a result of a neighbor complaining.

      And johnston is also right that this is DPW. The police have nothing to do with it.

    • I’m also wondering how long your bin and boxes were sitting out? I agree this ticket is a little silly but it seems odd that there are no other bins in the picture and the ticket was issued on a Friday at noon. So if your pick-up day was Thursday maybe a neighbor was annoyed your bin and boxes were still sitting out?

  • It was issued by the Department of Public Works, not the police.

  • It’s not the city it’s the DPW inspectors. If you go to court and present the facts you will almost certainly have the fine thrown out. Ironically they will probably still tell you that your in violation of some nonsense but the judges are much more likely to understand the reality of a situation than the DPW inspectors.

    Fight it!

  • As someone who’s gotten some awesome free items and often leaves free stuff out and have been able to have items that would normally be put in the trash go to a good home, don’t knock the boxes of political books. I don’t think I’ve ever seen these items left out for more than a day or exposed to the elements. Most people, like me, leave them out on a Saturday and if they aren’t picked up, we’ll bring them back in and put them in the trash or find another way to donate them.

    • I actually moved out of the house that’s right where the photos were taken on this citation and left a ton of stuff on the curb when I left; it was all gone within 36 hours.

      The Capitol Hill Furniture Fairy giveth, and the Capitol Hill Furniture Fairy taketh.

      • I hope you posted curb alerts on Craigslist and weren’t counting on everything disappearing on its own.

        • SouthwestDC

          You don’t need to post curb alerts in Capitol Hill. I’d argue that posting curb alerts is inconsiderate because whoever sees them will not get to the curb in time to claim whatever’s out there. The only exception I can think of is maybe some big heavy stuff that would require a truck (but even those items seem to disappear within an hour or two).

          • Agreed. I lived at the corner of Ky and E Street SE for years and things would simply vanish if left outside. It was wonderful.

          • Ahh, OK. I didn’t know that.

          • justinbc

            Yeah if you’re on one of the busier streets stuff gets gobbled up almost instantly. I always forget to set a recording for how long in between placing something outside and a truck driving by and tossing it in, whether they needed / wanted it or whatever.

          • Even on my tiny one-way street with very little foot traffic, almost everything I put out gets taken within an afternoon without a curb alert.

          • I put a chair out in front of my house in downtown’ish Silver Spring, and it was gone in 15 minutes. Neighbors often post such items on our listserv, but I was lazy.

  • One of your neighbors likely complained. That said, the “there’s all kind of other crime going on!” argument is a lame one. Three weeks ago I got a $20 ticket for riding my bike through a red light (11th and H NW on a weekday morning, if anyone else here got caught in that little sting operation). I think it’s ridiculous, but I’m not going to make that argument, because I understand MPD has different units dedicated to different issues. Just because there are murders doesn’t mean they disband the transportation safety unit that ticketed me, or whatever code enforcement unit ticketed you. Chalk it up to bad luck, contest it and/or pay it, and move on.

    • You think it is ridiculous that you were ticketed for ignoring a red light and putting pedestrians in danger? If more people that did this were ticketed, perhaps I wouldn’t have to worry so much about being hit by a biker or worse, having one hit my dog.

      • What, with all those horrific bike vs pedestrian accidents you must be justifiably horrified!!!

      • I pulled up to the red light in the bike lane, crossing H going south on 11th, with about 20 seconds left on the walk hand for those crossing 11th. It was about 10 AM, morning traffic was gone. With about 5 seconds left on the walk hand, the two pedestrians across the street from me on the SW corner of the intersection also waiting to cross H (going the opposite direction from me) and and the two on my corner, the NW corner (going the same direction as me) started crossing H. At that moment, I made the TRULY INSANE decision to also cross H. There was a plainclothes officer on the SW corner who radioed to a bike cop standing in the bike lane a half block down to stop me. The jaywalking pedestrians, at least the ones going in my direction south on 11th, faced no consequence. OH THE HUMANITY!!!!!!

        • still illegal.

          • I never said it wasn’t. I specifically said I thought it was silly, but I wasn’t going to make the “BUT THERE IS OTHER CRIME GOING ON” argument. I have already paid it. Take your sanctimony elsewhere.

          • we can all rest easy now that this criminal has been duly punished. if only those merciless jaywalkers had also received tickets! alas, their crime spree will live on for another day.

    • Hi. This was my citation. I appreciate your post, but comparing your illegal traffic act to other illegal traffic acts is a bit different than comparing theft, breaking and entering, mail fraud, and anonymous litter to someone moving my recycling and my getting a citation for it. I hope you understand that.

      • Nope, you have completely missed my point. I’m not comparing my traffic act to other traffic acts. I’m saying I will NOT make the same argument you’re making (re: theft, B&E, assault, whatever other more dangerous crimes you want to list). It’s dumb to assume the MPD is just going to not employ people who do low-level crime enforcement when there is more serious crime going on.
        “I find it ridiculous that this is what the police spend their time doing rather than keeping people and property safe”
        Your ticket originated from someone in code enforcement. They’re not there to stop serious crimes. They’re there to enforce the code, just like the traffic enforcement people got me. From the pictures, you live in a pretty nice part of DC. You also admit both you and your girlfriend have cars and have/had at least one bike. Sounds like you have some disposable income. Let me be more direct than I was in my original comment: instead of whining to Popville about your measly $75 ticket, just pay it and move on with your life. Wasn’t that hard for me to do. Kthx.

        • Thanks for the advice, but some people don’t throw money away for irrelevant exploitation of citizens. Good luck out there; it seems you have a fairly difficult time.

        • DPW targets those who live in “a nice part of DC” because they are more likely to pay. It was a huge problem with condo buildings in Columbia Heights & Dupont Circle for a while – might still be. Some passer-by throws a soda can in your garbage and the building gets a ticket for not recycling. It’s a racket, yes.

          • saf

            I don’t agree. I think it happens more often because neighbors in upscale areas are more likely to call inspectors.

          • saf is correct. The code enforcement people aren’t predatory. They don’t camp out in nice areas waiting for tiny violations. They respond to the kinds of complaints that people with too much disposable income and time on their hands tend to make, such as “there’s cardboard under my neighbor’s trash can.”

  • how do I get inspectors to come and fine my neighbors? they are a source of never-ending trash (not to mention drugs)

  • You should definitely contest it. But I do think there is another side to the argument about city services. Wasn’t there someone just yesterday complaining that DPW wasn’t enforcing the rules and letting trash get out of hand on his/her street? And just looking at the pictures, I wouldn’t know whether you’d had too much recycling and put the extra boxes under the recycle bin or someone else had done it and taken your bin. Is it infuriating – yes, but I’m not sure how DPW is supposed to know how it happened. Hopefully you’ll be able to sort it out by contesting it by mail.

    Also, if you’re missing a bin and get it replaced, I found that putting my house number in large spray paint on my bins cut out bin theft. I haven’t had to retrieve my bins from my neighbors since.

    • Hello. This was my citation. I appreciate your post. We have a trash problem here, as well, but apparently they are more interested in citations than correcting the actual issue. The citation didn’t put the cardboard where it was supposed to go.

  • DPW recently sent around an inspector to my alley and sent us a ticket for the WRONG house. Even the pictures were for our neighbors, who have been renovating and leaving piles of construction debris in front of their trash cans.

  • Stuff like this infurates me.

    I’ve gotten multiple littering tickets because the recycling or trash pickup guys were half assed when they collected the garbage, and dumped it all over the alley and of course, left it, only to have the city come by within hours, take a photo and give me a ticket.

    Doubly infuriating as I am always the most fastidious about the trash behind my parking pad and always pull my cans off the alley, and there are a couple houses in my alley that have stockpiled trash and furniture for months at a time, and no tickets every issued

  • Meanwhile I have DDOT and DPW pointing their fingers at each other over a treebox that has been destroyed by cars pulling into/over it and now it trips everyone walking by and collects standing waters for days after a rain.

  • Seems to be the price of living in a dysfunctional city. Plus, you’ll probably end up burning through at least $75-worth of your time contesting it while raising your blood pressure. Maybe best to just pay it and forget about it.

  • Don’t fight it in person, you won’t win. I tried once – you are technically responsible for it even if someone else tossed it on the ground. Now, it’s also against the law for them to toss your boxes on the ground but that’s a different can of worms and the judge doesn’t care. Serious advice, if you can’t work it out don’t take off work. Good money after bad.

    • This is absolutely opposite of the experience I had. I got a similar ticket for someone dumping construction debris behind my house. I fought it in person and the judge said the burden of proof was on DPW, and they had to prove they saw me put it there. Obviously they couldn’t – ticket dismissed.

  • I received one of these citations when living in Glover Park; I wrote a letter contesting it and DPW didn’t respond so I saved the $75 and my time.

  • I’m convinced that garbage citations are as big a racket as parking tickets in DC. I got a ticket back in the winter between snow storms because there were bulk items and open trash bins behind my house. This was also the same time when DC was refusing to collect garbage from alleyways due to the snow and I had already put in a request through 311 for the removal of the bulk items that mysteriously appeared behind my house one night. I requested an in-person hearing and despite calling the clerk’s office repeatedly, I am still waiting for a date to be set. So, not only does the city send out people to issue citations when they won’t pick up the garbage, the backlog is so long for in person hearings that no one can tell me when I’ll have my day in court. BTW, I chose in-person because while 311 and DPW will confirm over the phone that I made the request and they did eventually pick up the bulk items, they refuse to provide me with hard copy evidence even by email that I can use to support my case. All I have to go on is the confirmation number from my first call to 311. So, I’m now waiting for the fine to mysteriously double for some unknown reason. Good luck.

  • Similar – some contractors temporarily set some the cabinets they tore out in my backyard for only an hour before loading them into a truck. Even with demolition permits up, I got hit with an $800 “waste disposal” fine. It had doubled a few times before they even bothered to post the notice 3 1/2 months later.

    Ended up getting it waived, but only after fighting it in person.

    I learned that the inspector only comes and issues a ticket if there has been a call to report. So, seems like one of your neighbors doesn’t’ care for you.

  • Call DPW and try to reach the inspector. Immediately.

    I’m a developer and once got a DPW ticket for a mess that was not on my property (!). I had had a prior discussion with the inspector who was writing tickets for other issues in the alley and she was very clear that she cuts neighbors slack (but she went after me with a dagger on the trash that was not on my property…that’s a different matter.) (I meant that figuratively people!)

    Anywhooo…if you can get to the inspector you MAY be able to get them to drop it.

    Also, contest it by mail even though it doesn’t give that as an option. Worth a shot. I had to do this wrt this ticket that was not on my property. Lo and behold a judge is sending me and DPW documents and requesting DPW to prove that this was my trash, given I could easily prove it was not on my property. End result…case dismissed!

  • I got a Dpw ticket after Mr. Broome (real name) repeatedly failed to enforce the requirement that neighbors move their cans from the alley to their property. I asked for a hearing – of course he didn’t show up and it was dismissed. I’m sure the judge knew he was toxic. Is anybody at Dpw listening?

    Regarding the biking issue – I agree that it might make sense for bicycles to be able to coast through a stop sign if another car or bicycle hasn’t stopped first at the adjacent corner, and maybe even go through a red light carefully. Some jurisdictions have enacted these laws. But right now the rules of the road in DC apply to all. I’m rather tired of bicycles rolling theough a stop when I am in the middle of a crosswalk and heading right at me. Or the dad with two kids on the back of his bike who cruised through a stop sign when the car that had stopped had the right of way. Maybe cars should have to yield to bikes and not take turns at a 4 way stop. But let’s do this the right way and change the laws if there is a consensus.

  • I got the same citation when my contractor put an old toilet on my parking pad to pull his truck around to pick it up.
    Literally out there less than 30 min. Wth!

  • Hi Charles, share your pain because the garbage is a nuisance.

    the apartments on the corner have garbage cans that are inadequate for their tenants, in my opinion. A lot of the boxes have their address.. The apts are owned by CJR2 LLC aka McWilliams Ballard, high end developers. You’re welcome!

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