Public urination is one of the most hotly debated topics for criminal defense lawyers. In Utah, along with a number of other states, urinating or defecating in public is not only illegal, but it is a sex crime as well.
In addition to state statutes, however, most cities and municipalities have their own ordinances that address this issue.
Utah Public Urination Statutes
In Utah, urinating or defecating in public is addressed in the criminal code in Chapter 9, “Offenses Against Public Order and Decency.” The statute states specifically:
“A person is guilty of public urination if the person urinates or defecates:
(a) in a public place, other than a public rest room (sic); and
(b) under circumstances which the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm to another.”
As stand-alone charges, public urination or defecation qualify as Class C misdemeanors. If minor children are present, the charges are elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. Conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can result in substantial monetary fines, up to one year in jail and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Are Public Urination Laws Overly Harsh?
These punishments certainly may seem severe, especially for those who truly meant no harm and simply could not find a nearby restroom or wait until they reached their destination.
Lawmakers began adding urination to lewd conduct statutes when defendants used this as justification for exposing themselves, and thus avoided conviction. Lawmakers’ intent was to close the loophole that allowed sexual predators back on the streets. Today, about a dozen U.S. states include public urination as a part of their sex crimes statutes.
Because of the sensitive moral nature of this issue, prosecutors typically pursue conviction with all available resources. Your name and booking photo will likely be published by local media outlets, causing the community to draw their own conclusions about your guilt or innocence.
Even if the governing statutes aren’t overly harsh, the events that follow the filing of charges are.
Do Public Urination Charges Always Result in Conviction?
The Utah statute is worded such that prosecutors must demonstrate not only that you relieved yourself in public, but that you did so in a way that you knew might cause “affront or alarm” to someone who witnessed the behavior.
This wording is vague enough that the decision could go either way, depending on the circumstances and how your case is plead. Although a first conviction for public urination is not automatically designated as a sex crime, it will be if you have previously been convicted of a lewd act. And if a child is present or in the vicinity, you may face aggravated charges.
The best course of action if you have been charged with any type of lewd conduct or public indecency is to work aggressively to have the charges dismissed or reduced. An experienced criminal defense lawyer is best equipped to do just that.
Your attorney can use his or her extensive knowledge of the statutes and case law to have the charges dropped or lessened, or — if necessary — to defend you in court.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, the Law Offices of David Paul White & Associates have provided expert criminal defense services to clients throughout northern Utah for over 25 years. We defend your legal rights for DUI, domestic violence, assault, violent crimes and sex crimes. Contact us today if you have been charged with a crime, have questions about legal issues or are facing public urination charges.