You may have seen – or personally attempted – the milk crate challenge on Twitter, Tik Tok, or some other social media platform. A daredevil walks up a pyramid of milk crates one step at a time with the goal of making it to the top without the crates collapsing. Naturally, an animated audience watches and reacts as the climber either rises to glory or dramatically tumbles to the ground (the latter being the more common outcome). The success or failure of a participant is immaterial to the ultimate goal of achieving 15 minutes of fame on social media, as this challenge provides a vicarious thrill to millions of viewers.
The trend seems fun and refreshingly silly in a time where the battered world craves comic relief; however, the milk crate challenge can quickly turn into a serious matter for the thrill-seeker, crate-gatherer, or live spectator. No, we are not talking about the obvious possibility of ending up in the emergency room; we are talking about ending up in a jail cell.
Having milk crates that are not yours is a crime.
Believe it or not, it is a crime to possess milk crates registered to another company or person. Section 506.509 of the Florida Statutes prohibits the possession of any “dairy case” that has a “registered name or mark.” Possessing a milk crate that isn’t yours is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $1000 fine.
Most dairy companies register their crates with the Florida Department of State for identification purposes. Each company has its own name or mark on its containers as authorized by law. If you took a milk crate from a farm, market, or grocery store, chances are you violated 506.509.
It is also a crime to possess most other grocery store containers.
If you’re thinking of using another type of grocery container to avoid criminal liability, think again. The statute also prohibits possession of “any [registered or marked] shopping cart, laundry cart…egg basket, poultry box, or bakery container.”
The evidence is “stacked” against you (pun intended).
If you have a stack of milk crates – or any of the above containers – registered in someone else’s name, you are “presumed to be in possession of stolen property.” This means the government doesn’t necessarily have to prove how you came to possess the crates or your intent behind possessing them.
Even altering a dairy container is considered criminal.
Perhaps you fell short of outright taking a container and only made some changes to it. If you messed with the registered name or mark, Florida law considers this an equally reprehensible act. Section 506.508 of the Florida Statutes criminalizes defacing, destroying, removing or concealing the registered name or mark on a grocery container. Section 506.513(3) has a similar provision pertaining to shopping and laundry carts.
Container crimes involving fruits, vegetables, agricultural goods, and commercial goods
The possibilities for committing a crime are endless when it comes to food containers. Chapter 506 of the Florida Statutes, titled, “Stamped or Marked Containers and Baskets,” essentially prohibits non-owners from possessing or altering any produce container, including field boxes, pallets, crates, receptacles, or any other container registered or marked as authorized by the State government. This broad prohibition not only contemplates containers for milk, eggs, bread, and poultry, but also for fruits, veggies, and other agricultural and commercial products.
From a legal perspective, the milk crate challenge isn’t worth it.
Sure, the prospect of captivating live and virtual audiences is tempting; but participation in the milk crate challenge constitutes a crime, and posting it on social media is an act of self-incrimination, i.e., evidence of your guilt. Is it worth having a criminal record in the name of going “viral”?
Already participated? Here are some tips.
You can’t go back in time, but you CAN take steps to mitigate potential criminal liability. Take your milk crate posts down ASAP, and ask others who filmed you to do the same. If you are arrested or cited for participating in the milk crate challenge or for otherwise possessing or altering produce containers, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. You should seek a defense attorney with experience in food crimes.
Our South Florida criminal defense law firm uniquely focuses on food and agriculture alleged violations. We are located in Wellington, Florida but proudly defend all of Palm Beach, Martin, Hendry, Glades, and Broward counties.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.