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?”

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Comments on “Judge Rejects Attempt To Fine Family For Picking Up Discarded Air Conditioning Unit”

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53 Comments
bdhoro says:

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!

Richard (profile) says:

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.

Jason says:

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.

Berenerd (profile) says:

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.

Jim Anon says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Any Mouse says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

e100 says:

Re: 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.

MissingFrame says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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!

Steve R. (profile) says:

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”.

MissingFrame says:

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.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

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….

Rekrul says:

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. 🙂

IrishDaze (profile) says:

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!

Rekrul says:

Re: 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).

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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