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Arresting a person for public urination might give the impression that the police have nothing better to do. Peeing in public is a public nuisance in California. Police arrest people for public urination to maintain residents’ and business owners’ quality of life.

On most occasions, a person charged under public urination in California laws faces misdemeanor penalties. However, a conviction for a misdemeanor charge of public urination potentially carries significant consequences. Therefore, you need to speak with a California Bar-certified San Diego criminal defense attorney before you try to represent yourself in court on these charges. California law recognizes certain defenses to public urination that could help you avoid significant problems for yourself down the road.

Is Public Urination Illegal in California?

No one particular state law in California criminalizes urinating in public. However, many cities and towns have ordinances or bylaws that prohibit public urination. Additionally, the police could use public decency laws already on California’s books to arrest and prosecute a person for public urination. California’s public decency laws include public nuisance, public intoxication, and indecent exposure.

Public Nuisance Offense

A person charged or ticketed because of public urination may face a violation of a city ordinance or state law as a public nuisance. Under California’s Penal Code, committing a public nuisance is a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for being a public nuisance is six months in jail, a fine of not more than $500, and probation. Violation of a city or county ordinance for public urination carries the same penalty, except that the maximum fine is often $1,000.

Drunk and Disorderly

Urinating in public is often an indication that the person is intoxicated. Under California’s Penal Code, a person is guilty of disorderly conduct as a result of public intoxication when:

  • Under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both, and the person cannot safely care for themselves while in a public place.

Drunk and disorderly, which also can be referred to as drunk in public, is a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and could cost up to $1,000 in fines. However, California’s disorderly conduct statute allows the police to place the person in protective custody. After that, the individual might go to a detoxification facility for 72 hours.

Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is a sex crime in California. Anyone who exposes their genitalia in public when people are around who might be offended or annoyed could be found guilty of indecent exposure. The maximum penalty for indecent exposure is a six-month jail sentence, a $1,000 fine, and probation. However, a conviction for indecent exposure under California law requires the person to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Urination on Public Transportation

Public urination while using public transportation is a crime. The maximum penalty for this offense is incarceration for three months and a $400 fine.

Public Urination Laws: The Punishment and Costs

Public nuisanceProbation
6-months jail
$500 fine
Misdemeanor urinating in publicProbation
6-months jail
$1000 fine
Infraction public urinationCommunity service
$100 – $500 fine
Urination on a public transportation3-months jail
$400 fine
Indecent exposure6-months jail
$1000 fine
Drunk and disorderly6-months jail
$1000 fine

Public Urination Defenses

Prosecutors may decide to reduce the charges to an infraction rather than a criminal charge. An infraction does not allow for jail time or probation. Instead, the court could impose a fine ranging from $100 to $500, with community service. Additional defenses include:

  • Medical problems,
  • Age,
  • Mental disability, and
  • Mistaken identity.

Other defenses may apply to your case. That is why you need to contact a seasoned California criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.

Do Not Allow One Mistake to Ruin Your Life

Contact the tough, aggressive, and experienced California criminal defense lawyers with the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, by calling 619-234-2300 today. With nearly four decades of collective experience fighting to protect the rights of people accused of crimes in California, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, can help you avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of a conviction for public urination.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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