Public peeing is against the law. Even when it's not.
Has the call of nature ever been so insistent that you did not have time to find a bathroom? Have you ever had to pee so bad that you did it in a public place? David McDonald did. Back in 2003, he whipped it out in a Berkeley parking lot. Unfortunately for him, a police officer spotted him watering the asphalt. The cocaine that he found in his pocket did not help matters.
Trying to dodge the cocaine charge, Mr. McDonald and his lawyers attempted to have the evidence ruled out. You see, there is no law on Berkeley's books that says it is wrong to take a whiz in the open air. So, he argued, the cop had no right to bust him.
The Court of Appeals for the Second District did not see it that way. It found that public peeing is not only a nuisance, it is also littering, whether it's explicit in the law or not. As Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline put it, "Urination on or near a busy commercial street interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of both life and property."
That seems fair to me -- but where is the line drawn? Can I pull off the highway and pee in the bushes? What lengths would I have to go to make my urine a non-nuisance?
This reporter actually has some experience with public urination and the law. Years ago, I was downtown with some friends, and we had a bit to drink. On the way back to the car, I took a slight detour into a big empty field. I needed to go something fierce. The field was open on two sides, one side dominated by a blank wall, the other ending in a line of trees that overlooked a creek bed. Wanting to be discreet, I headed for the treeline. I even went so far as to step a few feet in to the trees. It was dark, and I was pretty sure that no one would be able to see me.
I was enjoying the relief of discharging all that beer when suddenly the lights came on and I heard a WHOOP. That startling sound was unmistakable: it was a police car. It had pulled onto the field and crept up behind me, and was now shining a spotlight on my back.
I was told over their loudspeaker to put up my hands and turn around. This presented a problem. I knew I was in trouble, but I also knew that if I turned around, I would be flashing the police and possibly urinating on their car. I turned my head into the light and said, "Just a moment. I'm almost done."
The police were not in any mood to wait for me to finish tinkling. They warned me again to put my hands up and turn around.
I had just finished and just zipped up when I was grabbed from behind and put up against the car's hood -- HARD. The police asked me what I was doing out there. I told them the truth, but they seemed to have other notions. One cop asked me if I was involved in prostitution. I assured him that I was not and told him to look in my wallet -- I had spent all my money on beer.
Apparently, that is not what he meant. I was somewhat put out when I realized that he was accusing me of being a male prostitute. He actually thought that I was advertising my wares, instead of relieving myself of used beer.
After some back and forth, the police gave me a ticket for public urination, calling it a "P. U.," appropriately enough. I was pleased to find out that it carried the lightest penalty of any ticket one can get in Austin. It cost me eighty-six bucks; and I learned my lesson. Don't leave the bar with out redepositing what you imbibed.
I suppose I was lucky that I had not been carrying any drugs like Mr. McDonald. There would have been no question about any evidence found on me -- unlike Berkeley, my town has a law against peeing in public.