charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

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Latest post 06-13-2011 10:33 AM by CuriousInCa. 8 replies.
  • 06-13-2011 12:49 AM

    charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    I want to preface this by saying that I have never been arrested, never been in trouble before. I usually go out of my way to avoid trouble. I guess I am not sure about how this whole thing works, so I need advice.

    My apartment is right next to my university's international education center. As a shortcut I usually walk through the parking garage of the center to get to my building, since its much quicker that way (most of the people that live in my building are university students. Last night when I was walking home, I noticed in the garbage dumpster of the international education center that there was a whole bunch of chairs that were being thrown away. I wouldn't say I am a hippie or anything, but i hated the thought of all those chairs just sitting in a landfill somewhere when not all of them were broken. I am a constant recycler, I hate the idea of things being thrown away that could still be of good use. So i pulled one of the chairs out, dusted it off, and proceeded to carry it home.

    On my way to by building I got stopped by a patrol officer who immediately calls for backup. They soon handcuff me and tell me they are charging me with petty theft. I had no idea that taking the chair from the dumpster was even remotely bad, let alone bad enough to get me arrested. I genuinly thought that once he saw where I got it from, he would think nothing more of it.

    I guess luckily I wasn't taken to the station, but instead issued with a "notice to appear" in court. Now I want to say that I don't mind paying fines, or writing formal apology letters to anyone I may have ever offended. I I thought for one second that I was stealing, I never would have even touched that chair. My worry is that it will create problems for me later on down the line, when I am applying for a job, especially since I am applying for work abroad teaching.

    Thoughts? Advice? I would appreciate anything that anyone here has to offer for my situation.

  • 06-13-2011 1:04 AM In reply to

    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    tsuchinoko:
    I don't mind paying fines, or writing formal apology letters to anyone I may have ever offended. I I thought for one second that I was stealing, I never would have even touched that chair. My worry is that it will create problems for me later on down the line, when I am applying for a job, especially since I am applying for work abroad teaching.

    You are right to be worried.

    Even if it's a misdemeanor, it's still a Criminal Record that follows you for life.

    I strongly suggest that you hire a criminal attorney who is likely to know how to get the charges dropped with no conviction on your record.

    Yes, it will probably cost you a lot of money, more than the fines, but it's not to big a price to pay for not having a Criminal Record.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 06-13-2011 1:42 AM In reply to

    • LG81
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    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    You are best served by getting representation to get this dropped.  You certainly do not want to have any kind of record.

    All of that to say -- wow -- I am surprised that the police officers cited you if you were able to show them where you picked up the chair (especially if other chairs there matched the decor).  In my area, the large university "move-out" week after a semester ends is known for folks to pick up what others throw away -- and it is legal.

    While not legally relevant, I am shocked at what folks throw away, when they could donate the items to Salvation Army, Goodwill, a refugee resettlement program, or some other charity.  Or sell or give the items away on Craigslist!  One of my friends from church is amazed by what she finds in the dumpster area at her apartment (which is not close to any college).  Folks throw away working vaccuum cleaners, perfectly good bikes, various furniture items, mattresses (although one would be reluctant to take a used mattress), etc.  I'm not a "tree-hugger" either, but I see this as such a waste; and it is sad that these items could easily be given to someone who needs them.  And although not a "tree-hugger", I do see careless discard as bad for the environment. 

    If there are other items that may match the chair you picked up still at the dumpster site, please consider going back to take pictures.  That might help with your attorney getting things straightened out.

  • 06-13-2011 3:40 AM In reply to

    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    Get an attorney. Understand that while the chairs were tossed in the dumpster, that does not mean they are abandoned property free for anyone to take. They were in the University's dumpster, and thus belonged to the University. The University could decide what it wanted to do with them — it is not automatic that the chairs would have gone to the landfill. Folks need to get over the idea that getting stuff out of the trash is legal. "Dumpster diving" is in someplaces a distinctly separate crime, to make that point crystal clear. I mention this because the previous responses to this thread seem to imply that the cops simply made a mistake and the charges thus can be easily dropped. That may not be the case. You do want a lawyer to get the best outcome out of this. But don't expect that the charges will necessarily get dropped; you might have indeed committed a crime and if so then in CA the prosecutor doesn't have the absolute authority to have the charges dropped (as they do in some states) but instead must get the court to approve withdrawal of the charges, and that means finding some reason why the charges must be dismissed.

  • 06-13-2011 9:42 AM In reply to

    • Cica
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    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    tsuchinoko:
    I genuinly thought that once he saw where I got it from, he would think nothing more of it.

    Personally, I think scavenging is a bad hobby, regardless of what is being taken.  

    For all the patrol officers know, those chairs might have been secondary to make you comfy.  *Maybe* -- they thought -- you're a regular, and your initial purpose was to review unshredded sheets with confidential data on them that you might have taken previously. 

    Don't mess with people's trash -- especially in this day of identity theft.  Search or contribute time to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.  In the interim, find an attorney.

     

  • 06-13-2011 9:56 AM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    Agree with taxagent again--get an attorney. Do NOT fool around with home brew logic.

     

    True , it may be hard to prove criminal intent  to steal that which is put into a dumpster.  In some communities it actually is a law violation to trash pick from stuff set out to be picked up--buts that not quite the same as stuff in a private dumpster on private lands.

    BTW, what happened to that dumpster? Might be interesting/useful to know.

    Hopefully it did NOT go to a scrap metal dealer for which the University got paid .

     



  • 06-13-2011 9:57 AM In reply to

    • Cica
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    More [=+=] Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    BTW -- my employer is in the process of getting rid of outdated, unused furniture:  chairs, computers, etc.  What do I want?  I want that empty safe that has been in my office for the past decade.  May I buy it?  May I have it?  No ... I think that I will further ask why.

  • 06-13-2011 10:03 AM In reply to

    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    I agree with others that you should hire a lawyer.  It will likely cost you some money, but I think it's money well spent.

    I am also surprised the police would arrest you for this.  I suppose I've just seen this happen in so many places so often, it is just normal to see and watch.  There's a couple that actually drive through my neighborhood on our garbage day 'shopping' whatever me and my neighbors have thrown out in the trash.  The man drives, and the woman will jump out of load up anything that looks good to them into the back of their minivan.

    In fact, when I bought a new office chair, I simply wheeled out the old one with the trash in the morning.  It was gone within about 10 minutes.

    Oh well, none of that is going to do you any good.

    good luck!

     

  • 06-13-2011 10:33 AM In reply to

    Re: charged with petty theft for taking from garbage dumpster

    I agree with all the others who suggested you engage a lawyer.

    When I was in college, I knew of two distinct instances of people taking usable trash from university dumpsters.

    One guy was charged with theft, and got the charges dismissed only after he engaged a good lawyer. The guy involved paid a lot in legal fees, court costs, etc., and it's fair to say he learned his lesson.

    The other situation was far more tragic. The guy involved was a real nerd - science major, introverted, never known to be on a date with anyone (male or female), never even got a drivers license.

    He was in the habit of taking stuff home once it hit the Chemistry Department trash. I saw the inside of his room when he moved out of his mother's (!) house. It was packed to the gills with old machinery, lab equipment, etc.

    Making a long story short, the police got wind of this. He was interviewed and told he could be charged with the theft of $30,000 worth of missing stuff. That scared him a lot. So much that he took his own life that very night and was found dead the next morning.

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