• Kevin Elliott

Criminal penalties removed for littering in city

The Rochester Hills City Council on Monday, June 4, approved a measure to remove criminal penalties for littering violations in the city.

The ordinance amendment, which passed 6-0 with councilman Dale Hetrick absent, will go into effect on Sunday, June 10. Under the current ordinance, littering violations are considered a criminal misdemeanor offense. The amendment will reclassify offenses as civil infractions that don't carry a criminal offense or potential jail time.

"This came to light because we have complaints from residents in the aftermath of fireworks," councilwoman Stephanie Morita said.

Morita said the complaints stem from the debris left behind by fireworks around Independence Day. However, she said proving a criminal littering case is difficult for the city, as the debris is usually unintentional. By lowering the penalty to a civil infraction, the city will have a lower standard of proof for prosecution, and individuals can forgo the right to legal representation or jury trial.

Councilman Ryan Deel said state law preempts the city from regulating most firework related activity, but the littering ordinance will help to address debris left by fireworks.

"I was surprised it was a misdemeanor," Deel said of the current law. "In law school, littering is a classic civil infraction, not a criminal offense. This brings us in line with most other communities in the country."

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