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General Laws

Section 16. Whoever places, throws, deposits or discharges or whoever causes to be placed, thrown, deposited or discharged, trash, bottles or cans, refuse, rubbish, garbage, debris, scrap, waste or other material of any kind on a public highway or within 20 yards of a public highway, or on any other public land, or in or upon coastal or inland waters, as defined in section 1 of chapter 131, or within 20 yards of such waters, or on property of another, or on lands dedicated for open space purposes, including lands subject to conservation restrictions and agricultural preservation restrictions as defined in chapter 184, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $5,500 for the first offense and a fine not to exceed $15,000 for each subsequent offense; provided, however, that 50 per cent of the fine imposed shall be deposited in the conservation trust established in section 1 of chapter 132A and the court may also require that the violator remove, at his own expense, the trash, refuse, rubbish, debris or materials. The permission of the owner of land to place, throw, deposit or discharge trash, refuse, rubbish, garbage, debris, scrap, waste or other material on the owner’s land shall constitute a defense in any trial for such offense.

If a motor vehicle is used in committing such an offense where the offense involves the unlawful disposal of more than seven cubic feet of trash, bottles or cans, refuse, rubbish, garbage, debris scrap, waste or any other materials and the motor vehicle is observed while the offense is in progress by an officer authorized to enforce this section, the officer may seize the vehicle and remove and store it or otherwise immobilize it by a mechanical device until (1) payment is made to the enforcing authority of a fine set by such enforcing authority up to the maximum fine which may be imposed under this section, (2) the illegally disposed of material is removed and legally disposed of, and (3) payment is made to the enforcing authority of its reasonable towing and storage charges, if any, for the seized vehicle. If, after payment of the above fine and towing and storage charges, the use of the seized vehicle is necessary to dispose of the material, the enforcing authority shall release the seized vehicle upon the posting of security sufficient to pay for the cost of legal disposal of the material. The security shall be returned to the person posting it upon proof of legal disposal of the material. Within five days of the payment of a fine to secure the release of a seized vehicle as provided for herein, the enforcing authority to whom the fine is paid shall deposit the fine in court along with an application for a criminal complaint regarding the offense, and the court shall hold the fine until judgment is entered on said complaint; provided, however, that at the discretion of the enforcing authority, the violation may be disposed of by the non-criminal disposition procedures pursuant to section twenty-one D of chapter forty, in which case the maximum fine shall be one thousand dollars. If a conviction is returned on the complaint the court shall award to any person or persons, other than an employee of the enforcing authority, whose information materially contributed to the identification of the convicted party, up to five hundred dollars, or forty percent of said fine, whichever is the greater, and the balance of the fine shall be equally divided between the enforcing authority and the court. If such violation is disposed of non-criminally, the balance of such fine, after payment of the award, if any, shall be deposited in the general fund of the enforcing authority. Vehicles seized under the provisions of this section which are not claimed or redeemed by their owners as provided for above within thirty days of the date of seizure, may after thirty days notice by certified mail to the vehicle’s registered owner, be sold at auction and the proceeds be applied to the fines assessed herein, vehicle towing and storage costs and the costs for legal disposal of the material. Enforcing authorities shall adopt appropriate rules and regulations which provide for the orderly implementation of this section.

If a motor vehicle is used in committing such an offense, a conviction under this section shall forthwith be reported by the court to the registrar of motor vehicles, and the registrar may suspend the license of the operator of such vehicle for not more than thirty days, and if it appears from the records of the registrar of motor vehicles that the person so convicted is the owner of the motor vehicle so used, the registrar may suspend the certificate of registration of said vehicle for thirty days.

The provisions of this section shall not be applicable to any dumping ground approved under section one hundred and fifty A of chapter one hundred and eleven or by other appropriate public authority.

This section shall be enforced by natural resources officers, by the director of the division of motorboats or his authorized agents, by harbormasters and assistant harbormasters, by members of the state police and by city and town police officers. A city by majority vote of the city council, with the approval of the mayor, or in a town by a vote of its town meeting may enforce this section by designating its public health agents, health officers and health directors as enforcing officers. In the city of Boston this section shall also be enforced by the commissioner of health and hospitals, by the commissioner of housing inspection, and by the commissioner of public works, and their respective authorized agents, and in section sixteen A, the commissioner of health and hospitals, the commissioner of housing inspection, and the commissioner of public works shall be deemed to be the commanding officers of their respective authorized agents; provided, however, that any person observing a violation of this section may file a petition for issuance of a complaint pursuant to this section with the clerk of the district court having jurisdiction or, in the city of Boston, with the clerk of the Boston municipal court department, and upon determining that probable cause exists therefor, such clerk shall issue such complaint.

Chief park rangers and park rangers shall have the authority to enforce this section on state forests, reservations, parks, rinks, pools, piers and other facilities and properties under the jurisdiction of the department of environmental management. In addition to the fines imposed under this section, the violator may be held liable for costs associated with the identification, removal and disposal of said materials. The department of environmental management shall permanently post signs on all lands under its jurisdiction which identify: 1) the penalties applicable for the violations under this section; and 2) the proper authorities and contact information to report violations.

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