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As from 17 January 2020 in NSW, there will be heavy fines carrying 5 demerit points for discarding a lit cigarette from a motor vehicle.

The maximum penalty will be 10 demerit points and up to $11,000 fine if a person commits this offence at a time of a total fire ban in NSW.

In fact, there will also be $660 fine to any passenger of a motor vehicle who does this on a road or near a road. This penalty will be doubled in the event it is committed during a total fire ban.

Brian McDonough, the president of the NSW Rural Service Association has said, “This reckless behaviour puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk… I hope this makes people thing very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette.”

David Elliot, Minister for Police & Emergency Services has said, “We had an early start to the fire season this year, and just 19 days into summer, we’ve seen almost three million hectares burnt, more than 700 homes destroyed, and, tragically, six lives lost. Firefighters have been on the frontline fighting the blazes day and night and this kind of criminal foolishness will not be tolerated.”


Law for Littering in NSW Prior to 17 January 2019

Section 145(1) Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) prescribes a maximum penalty of $2,200 for depositing litter in or on a public place or an open private place- this applies if the matter is dealt with in the Local Court by way of a court election.

Normally, there are a range of on-the-spot fines for these offences under schedule 6 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 (NSW).

  • $80: For littering a small item such as ATM statement, train ticket, confectionary wrapper (not including a cigarette or littering from a car).
  • $250: For littering other litter (not including a cigarette or littering from a car).
  • $80: For littering an unlit or extinguished cigarette (not including littering deposit from a car).
  • $250: For littering a lit cigarette (not including littering from a car).
  • $250: For littering from a car.

Section 99A Rural Fires Act 1997 (NSW) prescribes a maximum $5,500 fine for discarding a lighted tobacco product or match or any incandescent material on any land. The penalty increases to $11,000 fine if this occurs during a total fire ban in NSW- these are the maximum penalties is the matter ends up being heard in the Local Court (by election).

Normally, police will issue an on-the-spot fine- which means that the matter comes to an end if the fine is paid.

Anyone who commits the offence in section 99A can receive an on-the-spot fine of $660. The on-the-spot fine will be $1,320 if the offence is committed during a total fire ban. (see schedule 2 to the Rural Fires Regulation 2013 (NSW)).

If you wish to court-elect such an on-the-spot fine, click here for an outline on how to represent yourself in court.

If you court-elect a fine and get an outcome you’re not happy with in the Local Court, you may still appeal the local court outcome. Click here for an outline on appealing a local court outcome in NSW.


In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

The new laws on littering in the ACT have already been introduced from 22 October 2019.

In the ACT, there was previously an on-the-spot fine of $60 for littering. The new laws there have increased to a $500 fine.

In fact, in the ACT, there is a fine of up to $16,000 for causing a fire from a lit cigarette.

The new laws there are said to send a strong message as to the significant effects of littering on the city.

The Minister for City Services, Chris Steel has said, “Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter on the planet, and have a significant impact on the environment releasing toxic chemicals and microplastics.”

“With a hotter and drier climate, cigarettes present a real fire risk to out bush capital, with 13% of grass fires in the ACT started by cigarettes.”

In NSW, you may report a person you see throwing a lit cigarette out of a car window to the NSW Rural Fire Service on 1800 679 737.

For further information on the law on littering in NSW, contact our Sydney & Parramatta based criminal lawyers. Call our 24/7 hotline to arrange a consult today.

Published on 28/12/2019

AUTHOR Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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