Upper Arlington soon will have a new law on the books authorizing police officers to ticket people who litter from a motor vehicle.
The law takes effect June 21. People who toss trash from motor vehicles could be fined up to $150.
The charge is a minor misdemeanor but could rise to a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $250 fine and 30 days in jail if the litterbug causes injury to a person or to property.
The city already could charge someone with littering, but the new ordinance is viewed by Upper Arlington Police Chief Tracy Hahn as a more reasonable approach.
She said it allows patrol officers to treat the offense similarly to a speeding ticket rather than making it a criminal matter.
"The law was not a traffic violation," Hahn said. "It was a criminal violation. Now we will be treating it just like a traffic violation. Otherwise, we would have to physically arrest (offenders) for criminal littering and they would have to go to criminal court."
Upper Arlington City Council endorsed the new litter law by way of a unanimous vote May 22.
According to a staff report provided to council by City Attorney Jeanine Hummer, the city isn't taking a tougher stance on littering but does hope the new law influences people to properly dispose of trash and other unwanted items.
"Chief Hahn and the city manager (Ted Staton) are aware that this may be an ordinance used to address flyers thrown from a car and left in driveways," Hummer's report stated. "Although the ordinance may be used, the UAPD does not intend to be heavy-handed with the application of this new offense, but rather use it as a deterrent when we receive these complaints."
Council President Debbie Johnson said the new litter law carries the same penalties as the existing city ordinance but allows local police to address the offenses with traffic citations.
She said it was sparked by "a lot of complaints" from residents and businesses about commercial flyers and other delivered solicitations cluttering city streets and parking lots.
"This was just trying to address some of those issues and taking it out of the criminal category," Johnson said. "We've had some issues and this seemed like the best approach.
"The tool (police) had was kind of like using a jackhammer when they just needed something lighter."