New York City Health Code Section 153.09 - Offensive Matter in the Street (otherwise known as public urination)

New York City Health Code Section 153.09 is one of the two most common ways that people are charged with urinating in public.

Text of the Statute

§ 153.09. Throwing or dropping offensive matter into streets, public places, rivers and other places prohibited. No person shall throw or put any blood, swill, brine, offensive animal matter, noxious liquid, dead animals, of- fal, putrid or stinking vegetable or animal matter or other filthy matter of any kind, and no person shall allow any such matter to run or fall into any street, public place, sewer, receiving basin or river, any standing or run- ning water or into any other waters of the City as defined in § 145.01.

Discussion

Reading this provision of the Health Code, you have to wonder whether the author actually had urinating in public in mind as the conduct meant to be punished here. Urine is not specifically listed among the prohibited substances, but has actually been found to qualify as "other filthy matter of any kind". It seems that the idea behind this statute was more to prevent unregulated dumping of various commercial wastes into our streets and rivers. You can imagine times during the industrial revolution when unregulated businesses simply did dump blood, swill, brine and other noxious liquids wherever they chose, including the streets of New York City. I am not sure, but I would guess that urinating in public was not really the focus of this statute.

But it is now. This Public Health method of ticketing people for urinating in public is one of the top summonses issued in New York City.

This Public Health charge is a MISDEMEANOR. To be convicted of this offense means that you would have a CRIMINAL RECORD. No kidding. In theory a person who is convicted of this offense is potentially subject to one year in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. This may not be a realistic outcome in the real world, but it is a reminder that these pink summonses ought not be taken lightly.

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