If you recently received a public urination summons in New York City. you are in good company. Public Urination or Urinating in Public is a commonly charged offense in NYC. Typical recipients of a public urination summons are professional, hard-working, law-abiding individuals. The type of person who usually never has anything more serious than a parking ticket. While City council has plans to decriminalize these offenses and send them to civil court, the current status of the change is up in the air as NYPD officers are still writing summons for criminal court. The New York Times has reported that the City Council is trying to pass legislation to get offenses such as public urination out of criminal court.
The usual lead-up to a public urination charge is someone heading home or to their hotel after a late night in the City. A restroom is needed but there isn't one available. But what is in sight is a seemingly secluded and dark spot in an alley or behind a dumpster. The perfect spot to go. But suddenly out of nowhere-- NYPD officers appear with summons pad in hand. The cops asks for identification, then hand over a pink ticket directing them appear at NYC Criminal Court.
If the public urination charge occurs in Manhattan, the police will issue the summons for a Court appearance at either 346 Broadway or 314 West 54th Street. Tickets issued in Midtown and Chelsea usually go to 314 West 54th Street while the other tickets go to 346 Broadway. Both Courts together handle every Manhattan public urination case except for the cases that warrant and end up at 100 Centre Street. Brooklyn charges are also held at 346 Broadway in Manhattan
The ticket (aka summons or citation) will usually read as either "public urination" or urinating in public" and the police almost always 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.
People are being told by the officers that a public urination summons is no big deal and that they should just plead guilty and mail in the 50 bucks for the summons. IF YOU ARE THINKING OF MAILING IN A GUILTY PLEA to a public urination summons written up under 16-118(6) read the following:
Pleading guilty by mail will result in the summons becoming a permanent public record in New York. it will be on file forever and anyone and everyone will have access to it. Also, its important to note that the pink copy of the summons which is given to the defendant does not have the same detailed description of the event as the white copy filed with the court.
Why is it important to understand that the White copy of the summons is more detailed than the pink copy received by the defendant?
Usually, the pink copy just cites the code violation and states "urinating in public" or "public urination." Summons holders then plead guilty by mail assuming that the white copy--which becomes a permanent public record-- has no additional information beyond what is stated on the pink copy.
However, on the white (original) copy the officer describes what he saw which led to the summons. While most of the time NYPD officers will just write a simple sentence or two stating that they observed defendant urinating on a public sidewalk, occasionally officers embellish the white copy with statements that could be damaging to one's reputation. For instance, I have seen summonses where the officer wrote that they "observed defendant urinating and exposing himself in the street in front of a group of passerbys". Chances are, the white copy of your summons won't be embellished to that extent. But should anyone take a chance--just for the sake of convenience and to save a few bucks-- on having that kind of information permanently available to the public and to background checkers? Remember, the white copy of the summons becomes a permanent public record and the officer's statement on that summons of what he saw is also public record. Perhaps you owe it to yourself to at least read the original white copy of the summons before entering a guilty plea. If you are unable to get to the courthouse to look at the summons, call me at 212-786-2999.
But regardless of what the summons says... Mailing in a guilty plea means a permanent conviction. So, even when the summons is not embellished and merely says urinating in public, it is still a conviction. These days, applications for jobs, licenses, schools etc., often ask about convictions for everything other than minor traffic offenses. It is always better to be able to answer "NO" on any application that asks about convictions for violations. Once a person answers "yes" to such a question, they are usually then required to explain on a separate sheet of paper the details of the conviction. Oftentimes the applicant is even required to attach a copy of the charging documents. The bottom line is that any person who envisions filling out a lot of applications in their future should think seriously about forgetting the mail in option. Instead, they should consider hiring a lawyer to seek a dismissal.
Hiring a lawyer to seek a dismissal is a lot easier and cheaper than many people might think. Call me at 212-786-2999 and ask me about my no-hassle, reasonable flat fee to handle a public urination summons. I have had a lot of success at getting these cases dismissed. I also have discounted rates for students.
Understanding the difference between the 16-118(8) and the 153.09
After handling hundreds of NYC Public Urination charges, I have concluded 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. Perhaps a particular police officers is more familiar with either one or the other statute and just writes it up under the statute 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.
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.
While getting an ACD or other form of dismissal at 346 Broadway for a public urination charge has been historically difficult. it is not impossible and there are circumstances that can be brought up at the time of arraignment on the charge which can persuade the Judicial Hearing Officer to dismiss the charge outright or to offer an ACD. 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, or if you prefer to send me an email use the form to the left. Ask me about my flat fee and my discount for college students.