What is urinating in public in Scottsdale, Arizona?

Urinating in public in Arizona is a criminal offense that is categorized as a Class 1 Misdemeanor and most commonly charged out of the Scottsdale City Court.

We see it most commonly charged in Downtown / Old Town Scottsdale in these general areas:

The scenario is usually people are in old town, at the bars, enjoying an evening. Due to crowds or due to bar operators or bouncers not letting people use the restrooms, people will leave the bar and find an area to relieve themselves.

The police know this, and wait in back roads and allies to wait for people.

In many cases, the police are riding around the area on bikes and come upon individuals in the act or immediately thereafter.

What are the urinating in public laws in Arizona?

The City of Scottsdale in particular is very aggressive with enforcing this law. They have their own city code, the Scottsdale Code SRC 19-19a, which is the statute that prohibits urinating in public:

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to urinate or defecate in a place exposed to public view, except by proper use of a toilet or other suitable facility provided for this purpose.

As you can see, the law is not complex. It identifies urinating specifically and includes any areas in public view.

This covers virtually all of downtown Scottsdale.

What is the penalty for urinating in public?

The Scottsdale City code classifies urinating in public as a class 1 misdemeanor, which means technically the maximum penalty can be up to 6 months in jail!

Here is what the law says regarding the fine and fees for urinating in public:

B. A violation of this section is a class one misdemeanor and shall be punished by a mandatory minimum fine of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00).
C. In addition to the penalties proscribed in subsection B above, the court may require that a person convicted of this section pay restitution for any clean-up costs incurred by the City.

In practice, we have never seen any of our clients have to serve additional jail time as a result of a conviction.

In most situations, the individual who has been arrested has already served jail and the judge rarely imposes more as part of the penalty.

Instead, there is usually only a monetary fine, potential for community service, and a criminal conviction.

Is urinating in public a sex offense? Do I need to register as a sex offender?

Legally, urinating in public, public indecency and exposure have many elements in common and a urinating could theoretically be elevated to a more serious offense.

However, in reality, we have never seen any urinating in public charges with our clients originating out of Scottsdale ever elevated to a felony or sexual offense level or require registration.

Scottsdale treats these as Class 1 Misdemeanors charges that do not require any registering as a sex offender obligations.

Will Scottsdale reduce my urinating in public charge?

In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no.

There is a strict policy in place regarding these charges to not negotiate absent extraordinary circumstances, such as a physical or medical emergency.

Surprisingly, Scottsdale will offer diversion programs for other criminal offenses, but refuse to do so for urinating in public.

Is it possible to avoid having a criminal record for urinating in public?

Of course! That is what we fight for in every case.

However, it is important to understand that Scottsdale does not make it easy.

As a result of the policies of the prosecutor’s office, this offense is highly enforced and the prosecutors in Scottsdale almost never negotiate the charge down.

People often believe these cases will be easy to handle on their own, given that this is their first offense.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Scottsdale almost never negotiates on these charges.

They do not offer diversion in most scenarios, allow for community service or reduce these to civil offenses.

This is a hard policy set in place due to the City Prosecutor, Caron Close, setting this mandate for all prosecutors in Scottsdale.

Our office is in Scottsdale, about 6 minutes north of Scottsdale City court and old town.

We have represented many people on urinating in public charges, and any time we have successfully had a negotiated resolution was a result of a long fight.

This can be very surprising for people, but it is important to know this.

We have heard anecdotally of other attorneys who make promises of diversion, reductions, or dismissals without knowing the true nature of how Scottsdale handles these types of cases.

The hard reality is that in most situations, it is not likely that the Scottsdale prosecutor’s office will agree to reduce or dismiss your charge.

How do you beat a urinating in public charge?

Beating a urinating in public charge requires an in depth review of the facts of your specific case.

Our office initiates an extensive review of all the evidence that is available, including:

  • Witness statements
  • Officer body camera footage
  • Venue surveillance footage
  • Police photographs
  • Recorded statements
  • Specimen samples

It is important to know exactly what evidence the police and the government have against you.

Remember, legally they have to prove their case. You do not have disprove the case.

In many cases, this evidence is incomplete or non-existent.

Often times, the police cannot articulate what they saw or when they saw it, or their testimony is not reliable because their observations were obscured or not timely.

In other words, the police did not get a direct view of what they claim to have seen.

They may have come upon you at a time when it was not possible to have seen an actual act of urination.

They may presume that the puddle on the ground of an unknown liquid belongs to you without having first hand knowledge of what that puddle is or where it came from.

This is called causation.

There may be a puddle on the ground and their may be a human standing near it, but can it be proven that the puddle was in fact caused by urination from that person?

In many situations, it is not as cut and dry as it may seem.

To make this connection, some Judges in Scottsdale require more than just an officer’s vague testimony that requires an officer to infer that something happened.

This is called circumstantial evidence.

A common example of circumstantial evidence is the example of snow on the ground.

You may come home after work and when walking into your home, see that there is no snow on the ground.

You wake up the next morning, and suddenly, there is snow everywhere.

You did not see it snow, but you infer that you the snow that you see came from the sky because that is where snow normally comes from.

However, it is possible that someone with a lot of time on their hands hauled snow in from the mountain and distributed the snow across the neighborhood.

Because of this possibility, this circumstantial evidence is not as strong as it would be if it were direct evidence.

Direct evidence is evidence that you directly observed. So in our snow example, this would be testimony that you sat by the window and observed the snow fall from the sky and land on the ground.

This same principle happens in urinating in public cases.

In many cases, officers see a puddle and see a human being, but do not see the act of urination.

They do not see a stream of urine exiting a person’s genitals, and without more, doubt can can be raised about the origin of the puddle.

This of course, is a highly simplified example of how the rules of evidence, admissibility, and testimony work in a criminal case, but the basic principle hold strong.

Urinating in Public Trial

The example above most often has to play out in a trial.

This is because by and large Scottsdale does not negotiate on these cases or agree to reduce them to a lower, non-criminal offense.

This means that you must be prepared to take your case to trial.

This is often not something many people want to do, but unfortunately is necessary if you hope to avoid a criminal conviction.

Most attorneys are not prepared for this because they are not aware of Scottsdale’s policies.

What if I want to get this over with and plead guilty?

For some, trial is not something they want to endure (Scottsdale knows this).

An alternative to trial or extended litigation is to plead guilty. In most cases, particularly if this is your first criminal offense, pleading guilty will only result in a fine of around $300 to $400.

You must understand, however, that you will have a reportable criminal conviction on your record.

Arizona does not have a mechanism of expunging criminal convictions. We do, however, have a motion to set aside a conviction that can be filed in this case.

A motion to set aside a conviction shows that you were convicted, but that your conviction has been “set aside” by a judge.

This shows that you have paid all your fines and satisfied all your obligations to the court.

It may be helpful in certain scenarios depending on your job applications, licensing requirements, or future plans, but it will depend on your specific situation.

It does NOT remove the criminal record.

What are my chances of beating a urinating in public charge?

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to say.

A lot requires reviewing the specifics of your case, what happened, what your mitigation is, and what evidence the government has against you.

It also depends where your case is being heard, which prosecutor is assigned, and what court room your case is in.

There are 4 main judges in Scottsdale, and each have different styles and leanings.

We can tell you that if you plead guilty to the charge, your chance is ZERO.

Our office practices exclusively in criminal defense, and we are located minutes away from Old Town Scottsdale, where a large number or urinating in public charges originate.

We have a tremendous amount of experience helping people fight these charges and coming out successfully.

If you are facing these charges, please contact our office to schedule a case evaluation to discuss your options.