Answer: yes, you absolutely can be charged with public urination after the fact.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can You Be Charged With Public Urination After The Fact? (Explained)
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Investigating Public Urination
There are several ways that law enforcement officers gather evidence of public urination, including:
- observing the activity with their own eyes while on patrol (most common)
- taking statements from witnesses observed the incident as it happened at the location with their eyes
- taking statements from witnesses observed the incident live but from a remote location (security camera)
- taking statements from witnesses observed the incident after the fact by reviewing footage
- taking statements from witnesses who tattle on the offender (“I saw Jon do x.”)
- taking statements from the offender himself during an interview, a set up phone call, etc
While television shoes often portray dramatic confrontations of offenders, many offenders are charged after the fact.
Sadly, there just aren’t enough law enforcement officers on duty to respond to every single 9-1-1 call, and sometimes the disorderly conduct isn’t even discovered until a later date.
Without imminent threat to life, it is rare for law enforcement to be able to scramble resources to the property to catch an offender red-handed.
Once law enforcement has finished their investigation, they’ll pack up everything and forward it to the prosecutor.
Making Charging Decisions
The prosecutor has to weigh justice for the public against the cost of pursuing a public urination case.
While urinating in public is illegal, the prosecutor may have a limited amount of time and money to utilize to work on cases.
When faced with a simple case of peeing vs an assault with a vulnerable bleeding victim, the peeing case may not receive the attention that the case would otherwise deserve.
The prosecutor reviews the evidence, weighs the factors that members of the public don’t usually think about, and then files or no-files.
If the prosecutor has an easy (or easy-ish) case to prove, he is more likely to file.
(An easier case to prove is one where the evidence is already lined up and clearly identifies the offender, the time and date of the offense, the location of the offense, and what happened, and the evidence is all admissible in court at trial.)
The prosecutor may also decide to charge the urinator with disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and trespass.
Statute of Limitations on Public Urination
While prosecution for public urination doesn’t always happen immediately, the police and government have limits for how long they can wait to pursue the case.
On the criminal side, there will be an applicable statute of limitations that limits the time frame to file.
Public urination could be a civil infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.
In some states, the statute of limitations is 3 months, while other states it is 24 months.
In some states, the statute might be even longer.
Should You Confer With a Lawyer?
This is a great question, and it really depends on the case.
In some states, a simple public urination case might be resolved without much fanfare or punishment.
Many courts (especially municipal courts) have alternative disposition programs (like probation) aimed at low level misdemeanors.
Conferring with a criminal defense attorney who practices in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred early on can help someone:
- understand the process of the prosecution
- analyze the facts and the likelihood of prosecution
- avoid making the case worse
- consider potential outcomes (trial, alternative disposition, probation, jail)
- understand what self-representation might look like
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