Public Urination: What You Need to Know

Austin is known for its bars. In fact, It has one of the highest bars per capita in the entire country. Consequently, alcohol-based offenses are relatively common here, from DUIs to DWIs to public intoxication. But there’s another offense that is more often than not related to alcohol consumption: public urination. People often urinate in public because they don’t have another option- for example, when there is not restroom available for bar-goers to use. Often bars only have a few stalls for customers to use, which results in long lines of Austinites wondering how they’re going to make it to the toilet. When faced with this situation, many men will quickly consider their options and end up finding a private-ish place to relieve themselves. Unfortunately, if a police officer is standing nearby, you could be charged with public urination.

What’s the Law in Texas About Public Urination?

Public urination is illegal in every state in the country, but the crime it is charged under can vary between jurisdictions. In Texas, it is usually charged under disorderly conduct. If you are charged with disorderly conduct in the state of Texas, you can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of $500 or less. According to the sec. 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code, someone commits disorderly conduct when they “exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act”.

There are also city and county ordinances to account for that outlaw public urination. These ordinances make it illegal to urinate on any public property, and even private property that is visible from public property (For example, if you urinate on your front yard that is across the street from a park, you could still be charged since people can still see you on your private property). Harsher charges that the defendant could be charged with are things like indecent exposure or lewdness, which are crimes that requires defendants to register as sex offenders. Another element to public urination charges are whether or not someone underage is present. This can quickly get you into deeper trouble with the law and land you in a sex offender registry, which can follow you for the rest of your life. In the states of California, Georgia, and Arizona this can be the case. Most criminal charges, in addition to sex offender registration, can follow you around for the rest of your life. You can be kept from living in certain areas of town, be denied employment, kept from international travel, and even can be kept from receiving student loans.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, it’s a smart idea to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you. In the long run, it’s worthwhile to let a lawyer handle your misdemeanor charge since the cost of hiring legal counsel is far outweighed by the long-term cost of a misdemeanor on your record. In addition, if you are required to come to court for your summons, it may be best to let your lawyer go to the courthouse instead. For some individuals, finding time out of their busy schedules to sit at a courthouse for several hours is out of the question. If you have a busy career or simply an inflexible work schedule, you may feel that you’re wasting your valuable time. Also, if you are contesting the ticket, you may be required to appear multiple times. For some people, going to the courthouse can be a stressful or even embarrassing process. Typically, the defendant must stand up in front of the judge and answer questions out loud in a courtroom full of other people who are waiting to see the him or her themselves. If you are a naturally shy, nervous, or just a private person, this can be pretty nerve-wracking.

What are Common Defenses Against Public Urination Charges?

Like all criminal charges, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Police officers can issue tickets even if they simply suspect public urination regardless of whether or not if there is proof. This means that if a police officer just sees you unzipping your pants but not actually urinating or exposing your genitals, they will still issue a summons, even though there aren’t any “attempted public urination” laws on the books. Really, any ticket or summons directed at someone who hasn’t even urinated is unlawful. Secondly, in most cases, the defendant will have had their back turned to the officer. Often, men will turn to face a wall or corner in order to maintain some level of privacy. if the police officer’s view is blocked, then how does the officer know if the defendant was actually urinating? The defendant could have been fixing a stuck zipper or making an adjustment to relieve discomfort. In fact, it can be pretty rare for an officer to actually see the defendant urinating.

What Will the Police Officer Do?

To combat these defenses, a police officer will usually try to beef up their case by asking questions like “What were you doing?”. If the defendant answers with any sort of apology, the apology is usually taken as a confession, legally. This can make it easier for the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The best thing you can do to combat this is to not answer any of the questions or make any sort of comments to the police at the time. Remember that the only thing you are required to do at that time is to show your identification or drivers license to the police officer. You are under no legal obligation to answer if the police officer asks you what you were doing. In addition to questions, the officer can use his or her own observations to build a case. For example, if they hear, smell or see urine they can use that against the defendant.

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