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?"