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Illegal Dumping of Waste - Penal Code 374.3 PC

Posted by Sam Israels | Sep 30, 2023

This California law prohibits the unauthorized disposal of garbage, waste, and other material on public or private property, known as illegal dumping, and it's defined under Penal Code 374.3 PC.

Simply put, it's illegal to dump garbage and other waste matter in unauthorized places or in an unauthorized manner.  Waste matter could include concrete, dirt, asphalt, etc.

Illegal Dumping of Waste - Penal Code 374.3 PC
Penal Code 374.3 PC makes it a crime to dump waste on public or private property.

Unauthorized places to dump garbage include any area around public or private roads or highways. It also includes private property accessible to the public, public park, or other public property.

PC 374.3 says, “(a) It is unlawful to dump or cause to be dumped waste matter in or upon a public or private highway or road, including any portion of the right-of-way thereof, or in or upon private property into or upon which the public is admitted by easement or license, or upon private property without the consent of the owner, or in or upon a public park or other public property other than property designated or set aside for that purpose by the governing board or body having charge of that property.”

“(b) It is unlawful to place, deposit, or dump, or cause to be placed, deposited, or dumped, rocks, concrete, asphalt, or dirt in or upon a private highway or road, including any portion of the right-of-way of the private highway or road, or private property, without consent….”

(c) A person violating this section is guilty of an infraction. Each day that waste placed, deposited, or dumped in violation of subdivision (a) or (b) remains is a separate violation.

Notably, you can face significant fines until the waste is removed and jail time for dumping large amounts of waste matter. Let's review further below.

What is Illegal Waste Dumping?

As noted, Penal Code 374.3 PC makes it illegal to dump "waste matter" in any of the following places:

  • Any public or private road or highway;
  • Any private property without the owner's consent;
  • Any private property with public access by an easement; or
  • Any public park or other property not designated for waste.

California Penal Code 374(b) PC defines "waste matter" as discarded, used, or left-over substance, such as the following:

  • Any garbage, trash, refuse, paper, or container;
  • A match or other flaming material;
  • Packaging or construction material;
  • A dead animal carcass;
  • Nauseous or offensive matter (fecal matter or
  • Objects likely to cause a traffic hazard or injury.

For purposes of this law, PC 374.3(b) also includes rocks, concrete, dirt, and asphalt among the objects that it is illegal to dump.

How Is It Different from Littering? 

Littering generally means throwing out tiny bits of waste matter, but illegal waste dumping refers to larger volumes of waste. Littering is a separate infraction from unlawful disposal of garbage.

What Are the Penalties for PC 374.3?

Violating PC 374.3 is an infraction that carries significant fines, such as the following:

  • $250-$1000 for first offense;
  • $500-$1500 for a second offense;
  • $750-$3000 for a third offense;
  • Misdemeanor charges that carry a fine and jail time for anyone who places, deposits, or dumps, or causes it, violates this section in commercial quantities.

These fines could be doubled if tires are included in the waste matter. Each day the waste matter remains illegally dumped counts as a separate violation.

Section 374.3(f) says, “The court may require, in addition to any fine imposed upon a conviction, that a person convicted under this section remove, or pay the cost of removing, any waste matter which the convicted person dumped or caused to be dumped upon public or private property.”

Commercial Quantities

Suppose the amount of waste matter dumped exceeds one cubic yard and is generated during a business.  In that case, the violation escalates from an infraction to a misdemeanor crime.

These penalties will increase for illegal dumping in commercial quantities (Penal Code 374.3(h)(1)), which include up to six months in jail and fines up to $ 3,000 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for a third offense.

What Are the Defenses?

If you want to challenge an allegation of illegal waste dumping, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome.

Maybe we can argue that you had the owner's consent. Dumping on private property is allowed if the owner has permitted you.

The exception is if the private property has public access, similar to public property. If we can prove you had consent, then the case would be dismissed.

Maybe you can argue you have a valid explanation. Perhaps we can show you a legitimate reason for dumping the waste at that location.

This means defending "guilty with an explanation," which might get the charges dismissed or the judge to invoke leniency.

If you are accused of violating Penal Code 374.3 PC illegal waste dumping, contact our law firm for a free case evaluation and to discuss legal options. Cron, Israels & Stark has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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