Alabama woman suing after being arrested for failure to pay trash fee

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:16 PM CST
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VALLEY, Ala. (WTVM) - A woman in East Alabama has filed a lawsuit after she and others - including an 82 year old woman - were arrested for failing to pay their trash bills. Tonight we talked to the woman’s attorney and the Mayor of Valley, where those arrests were made, about the legality of it all.

Valley’s Mayor says people were originally given citations with court dates and when they failed to appear in court, they were then given warrants. But, the plaintiffs lawyer says how the city went about it was downright illegal.

“I’m still having to go to court over a trashcan and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Valley resident Arianna Abdeltif.

For the past seven years, Abdeltif who lives in Valley, Alabama, says her trash bill for nearly $600 was sent to her old address.

“I had court for it in 2016 and when I went in, I pled not guilty. So then, that’s when they hit you with all the court costs and all of that. So that’s why it ended up being $600,” Abdeltif adds.

She says she was told she has until March 14th to pay the bill or go to jail.

A similar case happened with another woman in Valley. After failing to pay her trash fee, Santori Little was issued a violation notice, arrested twice and has been to court at least five times.

“Generally speaking, in America we don’t have debtors prison. And it’s a violation of Alabama Law and United States Constitution to put somebody in jail who can’t pay a debt,” said Little’s lawyer, Brian Clark.

After an 82-year-old woman in Valley was also arrested for the same problem, Little filed a lawsuit.

“We don’t dispute that the city has a right to be paid and enforce the payment provision via the means that most people would collect a judgment. But, you cannot throw somebody in jail for not paying their garbage bill,” Clark clarifies.

The garbage fee is $16.50 for seniors and $20 for others.

The city’s Mayor, Leonard Riley, says when people don’t pay the bill they are given a citation BEFORE a warrant.

“And that’s when you get those fines. The city of Valley only fines them $25.

Riley says at least 16 people in Valley received warrants but most have been suspended.

January 1 the city ALSO signed a new contract with a new company for trash pickup services. He admits for the past several weeks, trash pick up in Valley, through a company called Amwaste HAS NOT been on time.

“We got probably 1,000 emails to the trash company in December and November, maybe not that many, but we got a lot of emails. We have brought it to their attention and we just we have not been getting a service that we need,” Riley goes on to say.

News Leader 9 also spoke with Santori’s attorney a few hours ago and he told me they will more than likely be adding more people in Valley to this case who have been arrested within the past year.