The decision to urinate in a public place can have lasting negative consequences. You may be charged with indecent exposure. If that has already happened to you or a loved one, you need to know the definition of indecent exposure, what legal defenses may be available, and, if convicted, the punishments that may apply to you.
The Texas Indecent Exposure Statute (Texas Penal Code Title 5, Chapter 21, § 21.08) says that indecent exposure is considered as a sexual offense in the state. To convict an individual charged with indecent exposure, the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the charged individual:
• Exposed any portion of his genitals or anus with the intention of arousing sexual desire or getting sexual gratification from another person.
• He or she was reckless about other persons present who might be offended or alarmed by the act.
• If the accused performed unwanted touching another individual, e.g. groping or attempted rape, the prosecutor may charge him or her with sexual assault, a more serious crime.
Indecent Exposure Charge in Texas
Unfortunately, the trigger for an indecent exposure charge happens all too often in Texas. If a restaurant, bar, store, or other establishment prevents individuals from using a bathroom and the individual needs to urinate, he or she may decide to find relief in a side street or in a parking lot.
It may seem like a reasonable thing to do in some situations. Texas law views the matter much differently. If you urinate in public, even when it’s performed in a place you believe others can’t see, it’s possible to be charged with indecent exposure. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston now if you’ve been charged with indecent exposure.
Municipal Ordinances and Public Urination
Local city and county ordinances also define a public urination charge in different ways. It’s possible to have a range of different penalties in Texas, depending on where the individual is charged with public urination. For example:
- Some cities in Texas have a specific ordinance on the books to deal with matters of public urination. You might be charged with disorderly conduct if charged with public urination or charged with indecent exposure in others.
- If accused of a criminal offense, the matter is obviously more serious. You may be required to pay a large fine, get jail time, or face other consequences if convicted.
If you or someone close to you is charged with public urination in Texas, don’t delay. Retain an experienced defense attorney now. You must have aggressive legal representation to protect your rights.
Common Legal Defenses to an Indecent Exposure Charge
Some defenses to an indecent exposure charge in Texas include:
- There was a lack of intent. The law says that exposure to arouse sexual desire must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the urgent human need to urinate in a deserted alley might not be considered an indecent act.
- Intoxication was involved. Although this isn’t a standard defense, intoxication may be considered a mitigating factor. Penalties may be reduced if the defendant was intoxicated.
- A child urinated in public. Children are perceived as less inclined to intend to sexually arouse other individuals by an act of public urination.
Ultimately, it may be difficult to prove public urination. For instance, a man may face a wall or turn his back towards potential passersby. If the law enforcement officer or other witness couldn’t clearly see what the accused was doing when it seems he was urinating, he or she can’t swear that the defendant was doing so. In fact, the defendant could argue that he was fixing a stuck zipper or adjusting a strap to relieve discomfort.
Necessity Defense in a Public Urination Charge
In a necessity defense, it may be argued that the criminality involved in public urination is misplaced. The defense might argue that no harm occurred and that the act had no impact on society.
For instance, a homeless individual might have a necessity defense when charged with public urination. It may be possible to demonstrate to the court that no public bathrooms were available when he or she needed to urinate. Alternatively, he or she may have a medical condition that causes them to suffer from urinary frequency.
Ticket or Summons for a Public Urination Charge
Texas law enforcement may issue a summons or ticket even if an individual is merely suspected of public urination. Actual proof is unnecessary. The simple act of unzipping your pants can prompt a law enforcement officer to issue a ticket or summons even if the jurisdiction in which they work doesn’t have public urination ordinances.
It is lawful for law enforcement to take these actions. However, it’s your right to engage experienced defense counsel to protect yourself from the impact of a conviction.
Public Urination and Sex Offender Status
As you can see, peeing in a public place can lead to an indecent exposure charge in Texas. Texas is one of 13 states in the country where a public urination charge can lead to serious criminal charges.
- If convicted of indecent exposure, you can become a registered sex offender in Texas. You may be branded as a sex offender for the rest of your life.
- Registered sex offender status can determine where you live. For instance, if you currently live close to a city park but your status as a registered sex offender says you cannot live within one-half mile of a city park, you will be required to move.
- A seemingly harmless decision to urinate in an alley that’s close to a school can have serious consequences.
- If you need to urinate badly, it may be a better choice to wet your pants than ruin the rest of your life.
Laws in Texas state that it’s illegal to urinate or defecate in/on a public alley, yard, building, plaza, street, structure, park, utility right-of-way, or within public view. The bottom line is clear: don’t urinate or defecate in a public place. If you have been charged with public urination, consult a defense attorney in Houston without delay. You need tough, experienced representation.
Criminal Penalties and Punishments for a Texas Public Urination Charge
If you’re charged with indecent exposure and found guilty, you’ve committed a Class B misdemeanor crime that requires:
- Up to 180 days of jail time in county jail
- Required restitution and a $2,000+ fine
- Perform community service
- Submit to community supervision (probation)
If the judge believes that public urination was conducted with the intent to provide or promote sexual gratification, you may be convicted of a sex crime.
If you’re considered a repeat offender, chances are higher than you’ll be a registered sex offender for the rest of your life. That will affect where you can work and, as above, where you’re allowed to live.
Hire a Defense Attorney
Even if you’re charged with a serious misdemeanor crime, a knowledgeable defense attorney can make a positive difference in the case outcome. For most people, the cost of having a public urination or indecent exposure charge dropped outweighs the costs of hiring experienced legal representation. A conviction can affect future employment, personal relationships, and much more. Call a Houston-based defense attorney to mount a defense against a serious public urination charge.
Public urination is illegal in every state. You may be charged with a law that criminalizes the act of urinating in public or a prosecutor may claim that the defendant is guilty of disorderly conduct. If you’re charged with a public lewdness crime, such as indecent exposure, you may be required to register as a sex offender in Texas. Do everything possible to avoid conviction of a serious crime by contacting experienced legal defense counsel for a free initial case assessment now.