Ingram Publishing/Newscom

Ingram Publishing/Newscom

Forget merely annoying others with bad manners: In Illinois, citizens who throw their finished cigarette on the ground  are facing jail time – up to a whopping three years.

Illinois’s updated “Litter Control Act” will subject anyone who tosses a cigarette outside the trash to criminal penalties. The first offense now comes with a Class B misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,500. The second time offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor. Three strikes and you’re a felon, facing from one year to three years behind bars and a $25,000 fine.

This isn’t merely petty—it’s pathological. Criminal convictions can deprive people of their liberty and ruin their lives. Criminal law should exist as a way to exact retribution for heinous wrongs and express moral outrage – not policing people who casually litter.

It’s completely irrational to single out butt-flicking for such draconian punishment. Candy wrappers, newspapers, and fast-food boxes are equally a nuisance, and to the extent that authorities are concerned about fires, arson laws already exist to deal with that problem.

Such misuse of the criminal law is outrageous, wherever its burden may fall. No American should face jail time for flicking a cigarette butt, even if it’s done thoughtlessly. However divided Americans may be on other issues, we should all be able to agree that such laws reveal not only a lack of any sense of proportion but a complete lack of common sense.

These legislators need to butt out and repeal this silly and dangerous law.