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Public Urination

Public Urination Laws in California

California has no specific law that makes public urination a crime. Still, anyone found urinating in a public place could be charged with one of several different crimes, such as public nuisance or indecent exposure.

California Penal Code 372 PC, public nuisance laws, is the most common statute connected to public urination. This law says anyone who commits a public nuisance is guilty of a misdemeanor that carries probation, six months in county jail, and a $500 fine.

Public Urination Laws in California
No specific California law makes public urination a crime, but other charges could apply.

PC 372 says, "Every person who maintains or commits any public nuisance, the punishment for which is not otherwise prescribed, or who willfully omits to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

Also, many cities have local ordinances that prohibit public urination. These are rules passed by a municipal authority and are often misdemeanors or infractions.

For example, a misdemeanor violation of a city ordinance for urinating in public is typically punishable by a $1,000 fine or six months in jail. Infractions usually carry a fine of up to $100 but no jail time.

Other laws often apply to public urination. For example, Penal Code 647(f) disorderly conduct being drunk or intoxicated in public, but the intoxication level must prevent someone from caring for their safety. A PC 647(f) misdemeanor carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in county jail.

Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure occurs when someone willfully and lewdly exposes his private parts in a public place or where there are people to be offended or annoyed, a misdemeanor crime with sex offender registration.

Simply put, while there is no specific state law in California for public urination, it does not mean you cannot be charged with a crime for doing so. Most urinating in public cases involves only fines under various local laws or ordinances.

Can You Go To Jail for Urinating in Public?

Penal Code 647(f) PC covers public intoxication by making it a disorderly conduct crime to be drunk in public. Still, the level of intoxication must be so severe that the person cannot care for their safety.

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor punishable by six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000 and often includes an overnight stay in the "drunk tank."

Jail time for public urination is improbable, but you could be arrested and cited under state and local laws, mostly infractions, and misdemeanors that carry probation, fines, community service, etc. Simply put, while receiving jail time for public urination is technically possible, it's highly unlikely.

Which Laws Cover Public Urination in California?

As noted above, no state law explicitly addresses public urination; it can still be indirectly prosecuted under other state statutes and local ordinances, as discussed below.

Public Nuisance

California Penal Code 372 is the statute prosecutors frequently use to charge someone with public urination, a misdemeanor. This law prohibits being a public nuisance, which can include public urination. Violating PC 372 can result in the following:

  • Up to $1000 in fines,
  • Up to six months in county jail.

Civil Code 3480 says public nuisance is anything harmful to health, offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the unrestricted use of property to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community, neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons.

Public Intoxication (Drunk in Public)

Public urination can also fall under the umbrella of disorderly conduct in situations where someone is in public and so affected by alcohol, drugs, or substances to take care of themselves or others.

It also covers how being under the influence can disrupt public areas like streets and sidewalks. Since public intoxication is often connected to public urination, you could be charged under PC 647(f) if you urinated publicly while drunk.

California Penal Code 647(f) PC says, "Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

"(f) Who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance, or toluene, in a condition that they are unable to exercise care for their safety or the safety of others, or because of being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or another public way."

As with PC 372, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor punishable by the following:

  • Up to six months in county jail and
  • A fine of up to $1,000.

Indecent Exposure

California Penal Code 314 defines indecent exposure, which may be connected to cases of urinating in public. This law makes it a wobbler crime to expose one's genitals in public when motivated by a desire to gratify oneself or another person sexually or to offend or insult.

Under PC 314, anyone who willfully and lewdly exposes their private parts in a public place or when others could be offended or annoyed is guilty of a crime.

Indecent exposure is more serious than disorderly conduct; It's a misdemeanor for first-time offenders and a felony for repeat offenders. If convicted, the punishments include the following:

  • A misdemeanor carries up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
  • A felony carries up to three years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000.
  • Either indecent exposure conviction will require tier-one sex offender registration for at least ten years.

Lewd Conduct

Suppose urinating in public occurred near a school or park where children are present. In that case, it could be classified as lewd conduct, as defined by California Penal Code 647(a).

A conviction carries up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Also, like indecent exposure, if you're convicted of lewd conduct, you will be required to register as a sex offender.

Urinating on Public Transportation

Penal Code 640 expressly criminalizes public urination or defecation on or in any public transportation facility, such as buses, trains, subways, or stations. Of course, this does not include the restrooms, and there are exceptions for someone with a disability, health, or age. A conviction under this law can result in the following:

  • Up to $400 in fines and
  • Up to 90 days in jail.

Local Ordinances

Many cities and municipalities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, have enacted ordinances prohibiting urinating in public spaces.

Local Public urination Ordinances

Public urination in some big California cities is a major problem due to a lack of public facilities in bars and nightclubs, especially late at night after they close.

Further, a significant growth in the homeless population has also led to an increase in public urination complaints. Urinating and defecating in public raises disease and health concerns. Also, it impacts local business owners because it interferes with tourists and customers.

In response to this growing concern, public urination is an offense under Los Angeles County Code, Section 11.16.050, that can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor that carries fines and possible jail time.

The penalties for violating these local laws will vary from one jurisdiction to another, but they typically include fines and community service.

Some common defenses against public urination charges include mistaken identity, necessity, physical disability, and medical condition. Contact us for additional information. Cron, Israels & Stark is in Los Angeles, CA.

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