Public Urination or Urinating in Public is a commonly charged offense in NYC. Typical clients are professional, hard-working, law-abiding individuals who have never had more than a parking ticket. A typical scenario for one of these charges is an individual leaving a restaurant or bar after an evening with friends who is unable to find a public restroom on the way home. The individual finds a secluded dark spot and-- seemingly out of nowhere-- an officer appears and writes them a summons. If the public urination charge occurs in Manhattan, the police will issue a summons for a Court appearance at either 346 Broadway or 314 West 54th Street. Tickets issued in Midtown usually go to 314 West 54th Street while the other tickets go to 346 Broadway. Both Courts handle a lot of New York City public urination cases.
The ticket (aka summons or citation) will say either "public urination" or urinating in public" and the police usually write it up either as a violation of 153.09 of the Health Code, or under 116-18(6) of the New York City Administrative Code. Although it can also be written up as a violation of the NYC transit rules or the NYC park rules and regulations. Oddly enough, neither of those statutes deal specifically with public urination per se but with littering. However, there are several other statutes in NYC which deal specifically with public urination.
As a New York Criminal Defense Lawyer, I have handled hundreds of NYC Public Urination charges, and it seems that the decision by the NYPD to choose between writing it up under 153.09 of the Health Code or 116-18(6) of the New York City Administrative code is arbitrary. My guess is that particular police officers are more familiar with either one or the other statute and just write it up under the one they know best. Many officers probably do not even realize that the 153.09 is a misdemeanor (a crime) while the 16-118(6) is just a violation. Oddly enough, both of these statutes deal with littering liquids and not specifically with public urination.
While the conduct leading to either the 153.09 or the 16-118 is the same--urinating in public-- the legal difference between the two provisions is potentially significant. When charged under the Health Code, 153.09, public urination is a Misdemeanor, which is a CRIME under New York Law. A person convicted of public urination under this provision would have a permanent criminal conviction on their record. Criminal convictions in New York cannot be sealed, erased or expunged.
When the public urination summons is written up under New York Administrative code Section 16-118(6), urinating in public--even though it involves exactly the same conduct as 153.09-- it is just a violation. As stated above, Violations under New York State Law are not crimes and there is a much lesser chance that a conviction for a violation would need to be disclosed on a job or professional license application.
But whether the public urination charge is written under 153.09 or 116-18, a Dismissal --usually in the form of an ACD ("Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal")-- is the best way to get rid of one of these citations. A dismissal allows the charge to be sealed pursuant to CPL 160.50, and that means that it is essentially invisible to and out of the reach of the public and background checkers and that will drastically reduce the chance that it would turn up in a background check.
But getting an ACD or other form of dismissal at 346 Broadway for a public urination charge has been historically difficult. However, it is not impossible and there are circumstances that can be brought up at the time of arraignment on the charge which "might" persuade the Judicial Hearing Officer to dismiss the charge outright or to offer an ACD. At 346 Broadway, a second court appearance is often necessary to increase the chances of getting one of these charges dismissed. If you have one of these citations pending--whether it is a 153.09 or a 16-118-- and you want to discuss your chances of getting it dismissed, call Robert Briere at 212-786-2999 for a free consultation.