James Kelly, 44, said he was looking through a trash bin Thursday near Houston City Hall when an officer issued him a citation for "disturbing the contents of a garbage can in [the] downtown business district," the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.
"I was just basically looking for something to eat," Kelly said. "I wasn't in a real good mood."
Randall Kallinen, the attorney representing Kelly, said the citation was the result of the city's moves last year to regulate feeding the homeless.
"Now, when they try to feed themselves anyway possible, they make that a crime as well," the lawyer said.
"It's crazy to have a law where you can't look through things that are being discarded," Kallinen said. "People are always looking for cans and so forth -- that's part of recycling."
The police department issued a statement in response to questions about the citation.
"The ordinance is specific to the Central Business District. It is a violation for anyone to remove any contents of any bin, bag or other container that has been placed for collection of garbage, trash or recyclable materials. An officer has probable cause to issue such a citation when a person is seen opening a lid and rummaging through contents of a dumpster or trash can," the statement said.