Charges Associated With Public Urination In California

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If you’re charged with public urination or a crime related to public urination, take it seriously. Being convicted of any crime, even a minor one, could impair your ability to get a job or professional license years down the road.

California Laws on Public Urination

You can be arrested for public urination under both state and local laws in California.

California state statutes do not expressly prohibit public urination, except in public transportation (California Penal Code section 640). But public urination may be considered disorderly conduct (California Penal Code section 647) or creating a public nuisance (California Penal Code sections 370 and  372). Interestingly, it was not until 2006 that a California court expressly found that public urination could constitute a public nuisance.

Usually, people are arrested not just for public urination but for other disruptive behavior in public (often involving intoxication) that has attracted the attention of the police.

Very rarely, people are charged with the more serious crime of indecent exposure (California Penal Code section 314), a misdemeanor that requires “lewd” behavior. (For more on what constitutes lewd conduct, see our article on Public Lewdness.)

Many city and county ordinances classify public urination as an offense. A typical ordinance might prohibit urination “on any street, sidewalk, alley, plaza, park, beach public building or public facility, or any place open to the public or exposed to public view.” An ordinance with this kind of wording prohibits urination even on private property, if it’s visible from a public place.

Criminal Penalties and Consequences

Penalties for a California misdemeanor may include any or all of the following: incarceration in county jail (for up to a year), payment of a fine, and community service. Penalties are more severe if you’ve been convicted of prior offenses. Whatever the penalty, you’ll have a criminal record that may haunt you later, when you try to get a job, rent an apartment, or get a professional license. Most importantly, conviction of the state's indecent exposure statute results in having to register as a sex offender, which can be devastating.

Violations of local ordinances are generally punishable by fines and/or community service. Fines vary widely from county to county; a typical ordinance might specify a fine of $50 to $500, depending on the circumstances.

If you’re facing a misdemeanor charge, get legal advice from an experienced local criminal law attorney. You may be able to get the charge reduced or even eliminated.

by: , Attorney

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