Court says urinating in public is crime under California
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News
March 8, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A state appeals court in San Francisco
ruled today that urinating in public is a crime under California
The Court of Appeal made the ruling in the case of David McDonald,
who was arrested by a police officer for urinating in a restaurant
parking lot in Berkeley on the morning of Jan. 26, 2003.
When the officer searched McDonald, he found six rocks of cocaine
base in his pocket. McDonald was convicted in Alameda County Superior
Court of cocaine possession and sentenced to three years' probation.
McDonald argued in his appeal that the cocaine should not be
allowed as evidence because public urination is not a crime and
there was therefore no justification for arresting and searching
A three-judge appeals panel said in a 20-page opinion that relieving
oneself in public does not qualify as a littering crime under
state law but does qualify as a crime of committing a public nuisance.
The court said public urination fit the definition of a public
nuisance, described in state law as an act that is injurious to
health, indecent or offensive to the senses and that interferes
with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.
Justice Anthony Kline wrote, "There can be little doubt
that urination on or near a busy commercial street interferes
with the comfortable enjoyment of both life and property."
Kline continued, "The sight and smell of urine are vile
and offensive, and those who use the public streets and sidewalks
cannot be freely subjected to such unpleasantness."
The ruling applies to acts in public places such as the vicinity
of a busy street.
The court noted that "there might well be circumstances
in which a single, discreet act of public urination would not
violate" the public nuisance law.
Kline wrote, "Thus, for example, a hiker responding to an
irrepressible call of nature in an isolated area in the backwoods
cannot reasonably be seen as interfering with any right common
to the public."
The court rejected McDonald's bid for suppression of the cocaine
evidence and upheld his conviction.
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