Cigarette Butt Leads To $203 Fine

Cigarette smokers may want to think twice about flicking their butts out the car window.

Mari Ann Sistrunk learned that the hard way this week, and now faces a $203 fine for littering.

"I did it. I admit that. I just wasn't thinking, and I threw the butt out the window,'' she said.

Sistrunk, 31, was driving home from work at the Olive Branch Wal-Mart Monday morning when she discarded her cigarette. As she started to turn onto U.S. 78, Olive Branch patrolman Adam McHann pulled her over. When she asked what the ticket would cost, McHann referred her to the number for the municipal court clerk.

"I couldn't believe it,'' Sistrunk said. "The ticket was $203. Two hundred and three dollars for one cigarette butt. I could have been speeding. I could have hit someone. Anything like that, and the cost would have been lower.''

McHann said his original intent was to warn Sistrunk not to throw butts out the window.

"I tried to explain to her that the intersection of Bethel and U.S. 78 was the worst intersection in the city for litter, but she said throwing a cigarette butt out the window was not littering,'' he said.

In addition to the litter, McCann said grass fires are a threat at the intersection, where a construction project is under way.

The fine for littering is the same for a cigarette butt or for a heaping bag of garbage, said Police Chief Jim Harris. Fines for littering are determined by city ordinance, not the police department, he said.

Keep Mississippi Beautiful has a state campaign that gives prizes to officers who write the most antilittering tickets, Harris said, but Olive Branch police aren't involved in a specific campaign. And McHann said all he wants to do is help keep the city clean.

"I'm not involved in any campaign, but we need more cooperation from the public in stopping the litter problem,'' he said.