Blog

Can I go to jail for "Public Urination" in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

two fellas urinating in public

Public urination occurs when someone urinates in a public place like a park, alley, or sidewalk. It is considered a public nuisance. A person can be arrested for public urination under both state and local laws. Urinating in public can lead to a public nuisance charge under California Penal Code section 372. This section states that:

Every person who commits a public nuisance is guilty of a misdemeanor.

The punishment for committing a public nuisance under Penal Code 372 could include:

  • probation,
  • six months jail, and/or
  • a $500 fine.

Most cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit public urination. Ordinances are rules or laws created by a municipal authority. Ordinances can be misdemeanors or infractions per Government Code 36900.

A misdemeanor violation of a city ordinance for urinating in public is punishable by:

  • six months jail, and/or
  • a $1,000 fine.

As an infraction public urination is punishable by a fine ranging from $100 to $500. Infractions do not allow for jail time.

Urinating on public transportation, or in a public transportation facility, is a misdemeanor under Penal Code 640 (excluding bathrooms). The punishment for a violation of this section is:

  • three months jail, and/or
  • a $400 fine.

There are other code sections that sometimes involve public urination. Disorderly conduct under Penal Code 647(f) involves being drunk and/or intoxicated in public. The level of intoxication must be such that the person cannot care for their own safety. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • six months jail, and/or
  • a $1,000 fine.

If someone exposes themselves while urinating in public, it could lead to an indecent exposure charge. Under Penal Code 314(1), every person who:

  • willfully and lewdly,
  • exposes his private parts,
  • in a public place,
  • or where there are other persons to be offended or annoyed,
  • is guilty of a misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor violation of Penal Code 314(1) is punishable by up to:

  • six months jail,
  • a $1,000 fine,
  • registration as a sex offender.

Defenses to public urination charges can include:

  • necessity,
  • mistaken identity
  • physical disability,
  • age,
  • a medical condition.

Can I Go to Jail for Public Urination?

It is possible but unlikely. A person can be arrested or cited for public urination under both state and local laws. These laws consist of infractions and misdemeanors. Infractions only allow for fines. Misdemeanors allow for probation, fines, community service, and/or jail time.

Public urination and public intoxication together can sometimes lead to an arrest for disorderly conduct under Penal Code 647(f). This could result in a trip to the “drunk tank”.

NOTE: An experienced attorney will always try to reduce a misdemeanor charge to an infraction. A misdemeanor conviction can have negative effects on school, employment, and professional licenses.

Is Public Intoxication the same as Public Urination?

No. Public intoxication under Penal Code 647(f) is called disorderly conduct. Under Penal Code 647(f), any person who is found in any public place:

  • under the influence of any drug, intoxicating liquor, or both,
  • in a condition unable to exercise care for his or her own safety, OR
  • by reason of being under the influence interferes with, obstructs, or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way,
  • is guilty of a misdemeanor.

The punishment for public intoxication under Penal Code 647(f) could include:

  • probation,
  • six months jail,
  • a $1,000 fine.

What is the Punishment for Public Urination?

A person can be arrested for public urination under both state and local laws. Local ordinances are either misdemeanors or infractions (See Government Code 36900).

A misdemeanor violation of a city ordinance for urinating in public is punishable by up to:

  • six months jail, and/or
  • a $1,000 fine.

As an infraction public urination is punishable by a fine ranging from $100 to $500. Infractions do not allow for jail time.

The punishment for a misdemeanor public nuisance charge under Penal Code 372 is up to:

  • six months jail, and/or
  • a $500 fine.

Under Penal Code 640, urinating on public transportation, or in a public transportation facility, is punishable by up to:

  • three months jail, and/or
  • a $400 fine.

In an unusual case a person could be charged with indecent exposure for urinating in public.

A misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure under Penal Code 314 is punishable by:

  • probation,
  • six months jail,
  • a $1,000 fine,
  • registration as a sex offender.

Why is Public Urination Illegal?

Public urination in some areas of California is a big problem. There is often a lack of public facilities in areas with bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Especially late at night. A growing homeless population has also led to an increase in public urination complaints.

Public urination leads to an increase in disease and health concerns. Also, for business owners, public urination interferes with tourists and customers.

Are There Defenses to Public Urination?

There are various defenses to fight a public urination charge. These include:

  • necessity,
  • mistaken identity
  • physical disability,
  • age,
  • a medical condition.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Comments have been disabled.

Free attorney consultations...

The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370