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 garbage bills. Tonight we spoke to the woman’s attorney and the Mayor of Valley, where these arrests took place, about the legality of it all.
The Valley Mayor says people originally received subpoenas with court dates, and when they didn’t show up in court, they were issued arrest warrants. But the plaintiff’s attorney says the city’s actions were downright illegal.
“I still have to go to court over a trash can and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Arianna Abdeltif of Valley.
Over the past seven years, Abdeltif, who lives in Valley, Alabama, said her nearly $600 garbage bill was mailed to her old address.
“I had a court case for this in 2016 and when I came in, I pleaded not guilty. Then they charge you for all the court costs and all that. So it ended up being $600,” adds Abdeltif.
She says she was told she had until March 14 to pay the bill or go to jail.
A similar case happened to another woman in Valley. After failing to pay her garbage fee, Santori Little received a notice of infraction, was arrested twice and stood trial on at least five occasions.
“Generally in America we don’t have a debtor’s prison. And it’s against Alabama law and the United States Constitution to put in jail someone who can’t pay their debts,” said Little’s attorney, Brian Clark.
After an 82-year-old woman was also arrested in Valley over the same issue, Little filed a lawsuit.
“We do not dispute that the city has a right to payment and are enforcing the payment provision in the manner most people would seek judgment. But you can’t throw someone in jail for not paying their garbage bill,” Clark said.
The garbage fee is $16.50 for seniors and $20 for others.
City Mayor Leonard Riley says if people don’t pay the bill, they get a subpoena BEFORE a warrant.
“And then you get these fines. The City of Valley will only impose a $25 fine.
Riley says at least 16 people in Valley have received arrest warrants, but most have been suspended.
On January 1, the city ALSO signed a new contract with a new garbage collection services company. He admits that garbage collection in Valley by a company called Amwaste has NOT been on time for the past few weeks.
“We got probably 1,000 emails to the garbage company in December and November, maybe not that many, but we got a lot of emails. We brought it to their attention and we just didn’t get the service we needed,” Riley continues.
News Leader 9 also spoke to Santori’s attorney a few hours ago and he told me that they will most likely add more people to this case in Valley who have been arrested in the last year.
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