The Law and Penalties for Urinating in Public in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Let’s face it: We all know the feeling of having to hold in your urine – especially when there’s no bathroom in sight.

It’s undeniably one of the most uncomfortable sensations to experience, and one of the most intensely stressful situations to quickly resolve. And so, when your bladder feels like it’s twisting itself into a pretzel, understandably, the thought of discreetly relieving yourself down a dark alleyway or behind a secluded tree is all too tempting.

But not only is urinating in public considered offensive behaviour, it can also set you up for a heavy fine, imprisonment and conviction.

Especially if you are going to pursue the comfort of emptying your bladder whilst also pursuing a police chase.

Indeed, not everybody has a perfect grasp of how to urinate appropriately, and in a strange case of desperation, on 9 November 2018, a South Australian man was arrested after allegedly urinating out of the window of his car while being chased by police through Adelaide’s city and north-eastern suburbs.

Just before 4:45am, a wild pursuit broke out involving a suspected drink driver in a blue BMW. A police patrol attempted to stop the 24-year-old male on Morphett St in the city, however, he refused to pull over.

Following this, police chased the vehicle through North Adelaide and Walkerville, before heading north along Payneham Road to Lower North East Road.

According to police, the driver allegedly slowed down and stopped at several points during the pursuit before driving through numerous red lights at intersections.

While police attempted to draw the runaway vehicle to a halt by rolling out road spikes upon reaching St Agnes, it is reported that the driver instead veered onto the wrong side of the road to avoid them.

It was then at 5:20am when the motorist eventually slowed to a crawl on McIntyre Road, and from the driver’s seat, managed to urinate out of the car window.

At this point, officers were presented a second opportunity to implement road spikes, and on this occasion positioned them on both sides of the road.

This time, the BMW smacked into the spikes, got a flat tyre and spun out of control, eventually colliding with a bus stop.

Police were quick to pounce and arrested the man from Andrews Farm.

He was under police interview and is now facing a range of charges.

Man Receives On-The-Spot Fine for Urinating in Public Place

According to South Australia Police, the reckless male was hit with an on-the-spot fine of $140 for urinating in a public place.

Along with this, he was fronted with a series of charges, including driving dangerously to evade police, driving with a suspended licence, driving an unregistered and uninsured car, and failing to truly answer.

The man is due to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 19 December.

There were no injuries resulting from the incident and no damage to any police vehicle. However, the driver’s BMW encountered some damage from collision with the bus stop.

NSW Government’s Crackdown on Drunken and Anti-Social Behaviour

In one way or another, everywhere in Australia, urinating in public is considered offensive behaviour.

Understandably, many people in the community disapprove of such demeanour. Meanwhile, police officers are mobilised to prevent it, businesses such as bars attempt to deter it with measures like extra lighting, and fines are levied. And yet, despite such measures in place, such anti-social behaviour still manages to continue on our streets.

In 2014, the NSW Government announced an increase in on-the-spot fines to combat anyone engaging in drunken or anti-social behaviour. This was part of a crackdown by the Government on public drug and alcohol-fuelled violence. In particular, it saw Criminal Infringement Notices for offensive language and offensive behaviour rise to $500, while continued intoxicated and disorderly behaviour rose to a fine of $1,100.

The clampdown on such behaviour was designed to send a clear message to drunken criminals – that violent, offensive and anti-social behaviour simply would not be tolerated, and that anyone ignoring this should prepare to learn a very expensive lesson in intoxicated street behaviour.

At the time, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher, announced that police, armed with augmented powers and greater resources, would front the streets scrupulously enforcing the new fines.

“We have more than 16,000 officers across the state who will be out in force to hand out Criminal Infringement Notices and make sure anyone who breaks the law has a very expensive night to remember their actions,” Minister Gallacher said.

He asserted that swearing or urinating in public is unacceptable conduct and the “community should not have to put up with such disgusting behaviour”.

Overall, toughening the on-the-spot fines at that time was designed to give police the powers, resources and backing they need to be able to deal with those who cause problem on the streets.

The Law and Penalties for Urinating in Public in NSW

Urinating in public is a form of ‘offensive conduct’ offence in NSW. It is also considered a ‘summary offence’, which means that anyone charged with this offence must have his/her case dealt with in the Local Court, not District or Supreme Court.

See our blog on the differences between a ‘summary offence’ and ‘indictable offence’ in NSW.

Other examples of summary offences include drink driving charges, offensive language and being in custody of a knife in public.

Any person guilty of an offensive conduct offence in NSW will face a criminal conviction and up to $1,100 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment sentence pursuant to section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).

A criminal conviction will be recorded against your name unless the Magistrate in court gives you a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction as a penalty after finding you guilty or after you plead guilty. Receiving any one of these orders by the court will result a non-conviction against your name.

‘Offensive conduct’ in NSW is any conduct that would wound feelings, arouse anger, resentment or disgust/outrage in the mind of a hypothetical ordinary reasonable person. That reasonable person is assumed to not be ‘thin-skinned’.

The reasonable person isn’t required to actually be present at the time of the offence. The court will draw a conclusion on the presumption that a reasonable person was present.

Whether alleged conduct is ‘offensive’ will largely depend on the alleged act, the circumstances of the act and the location it is alleged to have occurred. Some things may not be categorised as ‘offensive’ today, even though it was ‘offensive’ years ago.

If a defence to an offensive conduct offence applies to you, your charge will be dismissed. This is where any one of the following apply:

  1. You committed the act in a private location, away from public view or hearing.
  2. Your actions were involuntary i.e. sleepwalking.
  3. You had lawful authority.
  4. Your act was an expression of a political view.
  5. Duress or Necessity.

The only way to avoid a conviction for this offence is to convince the Court to impose a s10 or CRO without conviction. You will have a better chance at getting this if you plead guilty in court at the first available opportunity.

Preparing well written and compelling good character reference letters for the Magistrate to read in court can significantly maximise your chances at avoiding a conviction. See character reference example.

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