Judge Rejects Attempt To Fine Family For Picking Up Discarded Air Conditioning Unit

from the how-is-this-even-allowed? dept

The privacy geeks out there are all very familiar with the famous Supreme Court case California vs. Greenwood, which established the point that, once you've put stuff out for garbage collection, you have relinquished it as your own personal property. But that case focused on the 4th Amendment issues of things like warrants. In theory, there could still be laws unrelated to the issue in the Greenwood case concerning who can and cannot take the garbage you've set out. And apparently, New York City has just such a law, making it illegal to take appliances or air conditioners. There may be many reasons for this (safety, for one), but it seems like a pretty ridiculous law to try to enforce, either way. However, apparently in NYC, they actually pay people to sit and watch appliances that people have thrown out.

That's what led to a woman and her son getting charged with a $4,000 fine for picking up a discarded air conditioner. The Consumerist lets us know that, thankfully, a judge has tossed this fine. There are so many ridiculous angles to this case, even if you believe the law is reasonable. First, two people were fined. The guy who picked up the air conditioning unit... and his aunt, who owned the car, but was not in it at the time. That seems pretty questionable as well. It's a bad application of liability. Just because the nephew put the AC unit in the car, why should the aunt be subject to the fine?

The bigger issue, though, is the fact that NYC, which is having financial problems, actually pays people to watch appliances that people are throwing out. The original Daily News article includes a great quote from the nephew:
"Our city is going bankrupt and we are using our tax dollars to pay these guys to stare at appliances all day," he said. "How do I get a job like that?"


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jim M, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 3:41am

    Like NYC does not have better things to spend money on? WTH?

     

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  2.  
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    bdhoro, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 3:46am

    How to get a job like that?

    It's easy, there's hundreds of jobs exactly like this, and you don't need a brain to get it, just a clean drug test. The answer: Work for the government. Fact: They will pay you for doing next to nothing.

    I don't understand why some people think the government doesn't work like this. If they're too irresponsible to spend money in a reasonable manner, why do we still expect them to make reasonable decisions when running the entire state, or country for that matter.

    What's really sad is the government employs quite a large percentage (well over 10%) of the US population, and most of them don't do a damn thing!

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Yogi, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 3:57am

    WTF

    What is the job description for that occupation, or the advertisement for it?

    "Wanted: people with eyes and no motivation whatsoever to do anything useful in their lives"

    The demand must have been overwhelming.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Rooker, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 4:14am

    That's a job I sure wish I could have.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    LM, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 4:37am

    Were anti-discrimination laws changed as well to prevent blind people being hired to watch these appliances?

     

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  6.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 4:44am

    Imagine what a totalitarian gov't can do with automation!

    Oh, someone has: George Orwell, "1984".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    John Duncan Yoyo (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 4:52am

    It was probably illegal to throw out an AC unit as well. They were just guarding the evidence.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Theoden, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Re: WTF

    Actually, there were very few applicants - and the fact that they applied was a strike against them. They showed too much initiative.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Power Corrupts

    The person that fined them was obviously an overzelous city code enforcement officer. These people a typically enbittered and abuse the power that their job provides as a revenge for their petty lives. For more examples see: Parking Meter "officers."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:08am

    Re: How to get a job like that?


    What's really sad is the government employs quite a large percentage (well over 10%) of the US population, and most of them don't do a damn thing!


    OK this particular case is stupid - but your general charge against the government is nonsense. If you don't like what the government does I suggest you go live somewhere where there isn't one- like Somalia for example.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:09am

    Re: How to get a job like that?

    I am glad you added most :P. I used to be a state worker and busted my ass. 6 years no vacation. No paid OT even though OT was pretty much mandatory as the lone IT person for a department of 250. I finally left when I was trying to streamline the IT department and consolidate servers (we had 3 server just sitting on the network lookin pretty with blinky lights) and I was told that it was against policy to get rid of servers that were still under warranty. Too much political BS for me so I am in the private sector nowmaking more money but keep getting laid off.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:15am

    the laws are there because of the refrigerants that are in older appliances. you know those nasty green house gases? what happens is guys who collect scrap metal pick these things up, chop them into pieces (because they are not allowed to bring full units to scrap, they dont want the gas), and allow the gas to vent into the air (illegally).

    see mike, when you dont know what is going on, you can draw the wrong conclusions.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    Re:

    I'm pretty sure that for you to dispose of an air-conditioner you have to call a guy that takes the gas out first.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:31am

    Re:

    There may be a reason for the law, but that doesn't make it less silly (shouldn't the law be against using it, not otherwise legally obtaining a discarded item?) or the potential fine less unjust.

    I notice your comment also doesn't address the second, less defendable, response of someone not even present at the scene being charged.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    athe, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:36am

    Re:

    Selective reading again? Didn't you see this part:

    There may be many reasons for this (safety, for one)...

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:38am

    Re:

    What? people can just dispose of their air-conditioner without having to take out the gas first?
    Those 2 part air conditioners when disassembled let the gas loose if you didn't collect it first before disconnecting the tubes.

    Have you never owned an air-conditioner?

     

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  17.  
    icon
    Christopher (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 5:56am

    Wrong.

    That becomes an issue at the time the AC unit is "chopped up", not at the point of discarding the item. There is no presumption of illegal activity in disposing of white goods. But your angle was, as usual, creative.

    -C

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:06am

    Re: Wrong.

    actually, in many places (i am not sure about this location), the law is specific on the disposal and collection of appliances. they will have a specified day, and the city / county / whatever sends out trucks special to recover these things. many of them make it illegal for anyone else to collect them.

    paul, as for the second part of the charge, i suspect that some cities have written into the ordinance charges for the people who send others out to do the illegal collection, and that includes the owners of the vehicles used to do it. is this an overzealous application? perhaps, we dont know because we are going on the basis of a blog entry about a news story.

    my only point is there are very valid legal reasons and reasons of public interest why such laws exist. mike tries to make it sound like a huge waste of money hiring people to watch thrown out appliances, but there is a major environmental issue here.

     

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  19.  
    icon
    Steve R. (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:08am

    The Tech Implication

    Microsoft retires Windows 2000, Windows XP SP2. While this is not exactly equivalent to putting trash on the street corner,when a software company discontinues a product, that product has been figuratively placed on the street corner.

    The implication, the software company has relinquished "ownership" through abandonment. The software should fall immediately into the public domain.

    Another reason for this approach, the consumers who have bought the software have invested significant resources such as time and money. They may want to keep the software functional, so if it falls into the public domain they will have the opportunity to maintain it.

    Furthermore, when the company pulls the plug, they have purposely obsoleted what you have invested in. While obsolesce is a fact of life, let the consumer through the public domain decide when a product should gracefully "die".

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    MissingFrame, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:17am

    Add to the list

    Cops who sit and wait for someone to run a red light or go to fast. How about those do-nothings that waste time going from restaurant to restaurant checking if we're cooking our meat at the right temperature? Don't they have better things to do with their time? Yeah all this probably has something to do with safety but who the hell cares when you can sit around and complain about the government spending tax dollars.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    e100, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:30am

    Re: Re: Wrong.

    Your argument that this is a "major environmental issue" is an epic failure.

    There is no environmental issue in picking up peoples discarded trash.

    Sure scrap collectors *might* vent greenhouse gases illegally, but that is an issue to be addressed with that scrap collector at the time he vents the gases.

    Those gases are valuable too, I suspect some scrap collectors legally collect those gasses for additional profit.

    Making something illegal because some people might later do something illegal with what they collected is absurd.

    Better not be a good environmentalist greenie and pick up that piece of litter blowing by, the city might fine you because you might later illegally discard that litter you picked up.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    MissingFrame, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong.

    It's the CFC hoax again. They do the same thing if you dispose of oil, I just want to dump it down the drain but don't you know they want to recycle it. Oil flows free into the environment all the time, it's natural. Why BP will be fined multitude of millions of dollars is ridiculous, they didn't create the oil, it's natural. Let it free!

     

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  23.  
    icon
    AdamR (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    Now we know were you work at. So how many fines you had out to people taking news papers outta of garbage cans?

     

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  24.  
    icon
    P3T3R5ON (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 6:58am

    own place

    This is exactly why I am going to buy my own island and live there and be my own country. Then when people want to come to me with b.s. like this I can kill them for ignorance, stupidity and abuse of oxygen.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    MissingFrame, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:01am

    Re: own place

    Prepare to have 90% of your budget be used for military ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Delta5 (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong.

    Most auto-parts stores (Napa, Autozone, Pep Boys, etc, etc) will freely and happily accept used oil.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    Love it or leave it, huh?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:14am

    Tyranny much?

    Seriously, did the air conditioning corporations lobby for these laws?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    Governments, can't live with them, can't live without them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:21am

    i picked up on this one from somewhere else and i believe someone from NY said that the law is in place to cut down on people grabbing that kind of stuff to recycle it themselves so that the city can pick it up and recycle it and that money goes back into the city in some way.

    i would have to guess that its to pay people to sit and watch this stuff so someone else doesnt get it first so they can afford to have people sitting to watch this stuff so someone else doesnt get it first so they can afford to have people sitting and wat....

     

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  31.  
    icon
    isabel (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:22am

    shouldn't they inform people

    that is illegal to take air conditioning units before fining them? they could have a public service announcement about the evils of doing this

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:32am

    In my town, they have "bulk trash" pickup a couple times a year, where the city will haul away almost anything you place on the curb. Normal garbage collection is limited to something like 3 cans per house with a limit on size and weight. You're supposed to call the city ahead of time if you have major appliances to be put out, but the reality is that appliances last about 15 minutes on the curb before a scrap dealer spots them. I suppose the city doesn't like being "robbed" of their salvage fee for this stuff, but I've never heard of anyone getting in trouble for doing so.

    Right now, I'm sitting in a nice swivel chair I found, staying cool with two slightly beat-up box fans that I grabbed. I found a couple nice standing fans that I use occasionally, not to mention a stack of old computers in various states of operation. Earlier this year, I found a 12-gallon ShopVac that just needed a new switch. I've also found tons of perfectly good CRT monitors, which I prefer on LCD. Last year, I even brought home a mint condition air conditioner which is exactly like the one in my bedroom. It runs perfectly. I'm saving it as a backup. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong.

    Now there is an Onion article for you. BP drops off collected oil at Pep Boys.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    I wonder what the judge's rationale was for letting the pair off without having to pay the fine. If the tickets were properly issued, why not enforce them?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:55am

    Re:

    They are filled with hazardous materials.

    Perhaps he was waiting for HAZMAT to arrive when the 'terrorist' 'stole' the 'device', 'transported' it in a 'suspicious' (because it was not his) vehicle, and attempted to use it to 'alter the environment'.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Any Mouse, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    Re: Power Corrupts

    I have no sympathy for people getting parking tickets. If you can't read and understand the signs, or make use of common sense, perhaps the bus is for you?

    As for 'overzealous city code enforcement officers,' pretty much the same. Don't like the laws? Get onto city council and change them, yourself. You voted them in. Deal with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    Yeah, whenever you come across something you don't like just run away really fast. Or....... put your fingers in your eyes and cover your eyes. Either method will solve your problem completely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:25am

    Re: shouldn't they inform people

    Ignorance of the law is no abus^H^H^H^Hexcuse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Any Mouse, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Re:

    Even the original article (http://tinyurl.com/38bxr3e which is linked to in the article that Mike linked to) doesn't say why he dismissed the fines, but the fact that the man got permission from the person who was discarding it might have something to do with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Jason, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    Ok, this particular comment is stupid. Time after time I've come across government employees who do absolutely nothing. Having no government is not the argument. The argument is to have a small, lean, and effective so tax payers don't end up spending 30% of their income to pay 30% of the population in the government that could be doing the same work as 1/4 the number of people. And by your reasoning, if status quo is so good, anyone who wants bigger government should move out as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: Power Corrupts

    So I guess you've never heard of police brutality? The laws aren't the problem (mostly.) Hey if you don't want to get tasered or thrown to the ground then don't make that illegal uturn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re:

    That could be it. I read through a few articles and none said why the judge let them off. Just wonderin'...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Power Corrupts

    And next time I feel my rights being violated I'll get a law degree and become a judge. Then after a while I can wait for a Supreme Court judge to retire and I'll be appointed and then I can effect change.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Jim Anon, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    I am a former government employee (Army engineer) that left after four years. In my experience 10% of the people employed in my branch and those around me did all of the work. Sadly I was mostly managed by incompetents who were mainly concerned with marching up the GS or rank scale.... and doing your job isn't the best way to get promoted.

    Had I stayed much longer I fear I would have been completely worthless in the private sector. Then I would have been stuck in a system where I would be promoted based on time spent doing nothing in my chair.

    There were a few young engineers who would regularly say that they were literally doing nothing all day and would someone PLEASE give tasks. They mostly left with me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 10:23am

    Re: Add to the list

    Bad analogy.

    If you can pay someone to make sure that no one removes something that can be a hazard, you should probably be paying them to safely remove the hazard.

    So, yes, the job is a stupid, useless, waste of money, whereas health inspectors and police officers serve useful functions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    A good friend works for the state, er, commonwealth of PA. She's chronically overworked and literally underpaid (went a month or two with no paycheck due to budget deadlock recently). She watches several pointless 'desk fillers' go about their gossiping, off-site business running, and general f*ckery every day.

    Well, when she's there and not escorting detectives into drug dens or finding placement for the mentally ill or begging for funding from Harrisburg for domestic abuse victims or working from home after hours because it's over 100 degrees in the office with no windows that open, a broken elevator, mold in the ceiling and melting electronics that somehow isn't subject to OSHA regs since it's a government-owned building bought on the patronage system.

    She's got a good work ethic, cares about doing a good job and those her job can help. She is the person that the above atmosphere practically forces out of government that government desperately needs to be efficient.

    Absolutely we need government.
    Absolutely we need smartly run government.
    We are not getting what we pay for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    IrishDaze (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re:

    Dad? Is that you? (Seriously, you had me going until I saw the part about the CRT preference.)

    People who forage, salvage, and keep such stuff "just in case" are embryonic hoarders. Once every room of your home is lined with stuff you've picked up "just in case," you'll be approaching the point of no return.

    Seriously, dude -- Just stop. For you own good!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jul 16th, 2010 @ 11:50am

    There's so many problems with NYC:

    Rent Control

    Andrew Cuomo

    Traffic

    Transportation Monopoly

    I find it amazing that they believe everything should be run by the government, including appliance monitoring.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 7:34pm

    Our town made it illegal for anyone to take things that are left out at the curb because their revenue they received for metal recycling went down.

    Which brings me to another point, metal is about the only thing worth recycling. Recycle glass? Do we have a sand shortage in this world? It uses more energy and produces more greenhouse gases to recycle glass than it does to make new bottles. Oh, and composting? More greenhouse gas than burying it in a landfill.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Any Mouse, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 1:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Power Corrupts

    What does police brutality have to do with either of the groups we were discussing? Or do you like trying to toss up emotional arguments where none exists?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 6:18pm

    Re: Re:

    Dad? Is that you? (Seriously, you had me going until I saw the part about the CRT preference.)

    People who forage, salvage, and keep such stuff "just in case" are embryonic hoarders. Once every room of your home is lined with stuff you've picked up "just in case," you'll be approaching the point of no return.

    Seriously, dude -- Just stop. For you own good!


    Do you know how hard it is to buy CRT monitors in today's world? When my 19" CRT died, I checked and it's virtually impossible to find new CRTs. So I have a ton of spares. One of the trash ones has already died on me. Why do I dislike LCD? Two words "native resolution". If you don't run your system at the LCD's native resolution, everything has to be scaled to fit the screen. If you do run it at the NR, it can slow your system down having to update such a large screen, especially in games. Not to mention that my CRT monitor will go to a vertical resolution of 1200, while most LCDs stop at 1080, unless you pay an arm and a leg. Plus, most LCDs today are widescreen, which is great for watching movies, but it sucks for playing games (I refuse to distort the image to make it fill the screen).

    As for the other stuff, I had to start using the spare fan I brought home as one of the others fell out of the window and a blade broke off. The ShopVac also came in handy recently when I discovered that my normal one wouldn't turn on (wire came off a brush).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Grover cleveland, Jul 30th, 2010 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: How to get a job like that?

    So what is the best way to get promoted?
    • Doing your bosses job and let him take credit?
    • Sucking up to your bosses' boss?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    ann, Aug 15th, 2010 @ 11:23am

    You're stupid!

    Those refrigerants that are released during nonprofessional disassembly damage the ozone and are extremely hazardous to our health. Moron!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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