Administrative Code Section § 16-118. Littering prohibited (Another way to charge Urinating in Public).

Almost the exact same language from the Public Health Code prohibiting the dumping of "brine, swill..." is found in the New York City Administrative Code. Occasionally, the police will charge this Administrative Code version instead of the Public Health version when giving someone a ticket for urinating in public.

The Administrative Code Text:

No swill, brine, offensive animal matter, noxious liquid, or other filthy matter of any kind, shall be allowed by any person to fall upon or run into any street, or public place, or be taken to or put therein.

Sound familiar? (See Public Health Code).

Discussion

Although the language is virtually the same, there is actually an important difference between the Administrative Code version and the Public Health Code version. That difference is the seriousness of the offense. The Administrative Code version is considered a violation level offense, and is NOT A CRIME. Therefore, if you are charged with the Administrative Code version, and you are found guilty, you will not have a criminal record.

It is a quirk in our laws that the exact same behavior, charged under exactly the same language can result in you getting a criminal or not based simply on the whim of the police officer who writes up the summons.  I'm not entirely sure this situation would survive a serious Constitutional challenge, but it seems nobody has been sufficiently aggrieved to bother to take the time and use the resources necessary to mount such a challenge.

Although not as common as the Public Health Code summons, the Administrative version still comes in among the top ten. In fact, if you combine the statistics for the Public Health Code summonses for urinating in public with the Administrative Code summonses for urinating in public, the two combined would be the third most common type of summons issued in New York City (based on 2009 data). I'm not sure exactly what conclusion should be drawn from the incredible number of summonses issued for urinating in public in New York City, other than that perhaps there needs to be a greater number of safe, tolerable public facilities in New York City.

 

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