Our client, age 23, enjoyed the post-COVID-19 opening of bars and restaurants in Hermosa Beach. He and a few friends from work went to Tower 12 on the Pier Plaza and had a few beers.
By 1:00 a.m., the group called it a night and our client headed toward the Uber pick up location to meet the Uber driver he requested.
As he was walking over to the Uber loading zone, he paused along a wall in the shadows to urinate. The shadows, unfortunately, did not obscure his urinating, which a uniformed Hermosa Beach police officer watched. The officer explained in his report that he saw our client “look down and appeared to manipulate his pants’ zipper.” He then saw our client “urinating on the ground.”
The officer then contacted our client and our client “quickly attempted to pull his penis inside of his pants.” However, as our client stepped away from the wall, the officer “observed a wet spot on his pants near the zipper area and a puddle on the ground, as well as a wet spot on the wall.” The officer then asked our client if he had urinated and our client admitted to urinating and added he “just had to go.”
The officer then asked for our client’s identification and issued him a ticket for violation of Penal Code § 372, “public nuisance.” The officer circled “m” on the ticket to indicate the violation was a misdemeanor and not “i” for an infraction. The officer further wrote in an arraignment date and asked our client to sign the ticket, promising to appear in the Torrance Superior Court in about three months.
The police officer handed the ticket to our client, as well as returning his identification, and then walked away. Our client had enough time to still catch his Uber ride.
Once home and after a few hours of sleep, the client looked closer at the ticket and then called Greg Hill & Associates. He spoke with Greg Hill and explained what had happened.
Greg asked the client if he believed the police officer had actually seen the client urinating, or if our client admitted to urinating. The reason for this question was because in a small percentage of cases, the police may not actually see the client urinating, but may assume that the client is doing so because of the way the client is standing, perhaps near a wall or hedge.
Under Penal Code § 836(a)(1), an arrest for a misdemeanor is only lawful if the officer observes the suspect committing the crime. This code section includes dozens of exceptions, but the crime of public urination is not an exception. And while a detention to issue a ticket is distinguishable from an arrest, it is still a restraint on the person’s liberty, so such a detention would equally seem to be illegal if the officer did not observe the misdemeanor being committed.
This detention, however, would become legal if the suspect admitted to the conduct, so Greg wanted to know if the client apologized to the officer or otherwise admitted to the conduct because officers often are too far away to observe a person urinating, especially in the dark or if the client stands in the shadows like our client in this case.
However, here, the client told Greg that he apologized to the officer for urinating.
Greg then explained how such cases have been handled in the past, including the recent past. Greg explained how the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s Office prosecuted such cases for the City of Hermosa Beach and how the new judicial diversion provisions of Penal Code § 1001.94 and 1001.95 may provide an alternative to the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s offer, which usually involved a reduction of the charge to an infraction, not dismissal. The Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s offer also usually involved a “donation” of $550 to the Hermosa Beach Nuisance Abatement Fund.
Greg recommended that the client attend ten Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings prior to the arraignment. Greg then sent an AA sign-in sheet to the client for him to use in recording / documenting his meeting attendance.
The client then hired Greg Hill & Associates and Greg appeared at the arraignment for the client. Greg read the police report and then discussed the case facts with the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor, who seemed pleased that our client had attended ten AA meetings prior to the arraignment.
She then crossed out her offer written in the file and instead offered our client informal diversion, wherein our client would earn a dismissal in 60 days by just making a $350 donation to the Hermosa Beach Nuisance Abatement Fund. Greg accepted this kind offer, as Greg had done enough of these types of cases to know this was an exceptionally good offer.
Greg then continued the arraignment for 60 days to give the client time to make the donation and send our office a receipt showing proof that he made the donation. The client was happy with this resolution.
For more information about public urination and the issues in this case, please click on the following articles: