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St. Patrick’s Day Alert: Public Urination is Prohibited in the City of Pittsburgh.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 2, 2011

No. 588

The City of Pittsburgh passed an ordinance in 2009 [ No. 2009-1731] specifically prohibiting public urination. There is no such offense in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, so the City Counsel felt that it needed one.  Thus, this offense is tried in the City Housing Court. The Crimes Code does, however, contain a prohibition against public drunkenness and  there is always the old favorite, disorderly conduct.

The City Counsel felt that a special ordinance was required for this serious matter, since they judged it to be a particular problem in the South Side bar district on busy nights.  This ordinance has also been proven to be very useful to police on two other occasions: after Steeler games and on St. Patrick’s Day.

One interesting aspect of this ordinance is that it establishes a separate violation for failing to clean up afterward.  Does anyone disagree that a person who who would  actually attempt to clean up after urinating outdoors must be very drunk indeed?  Yet the City has established it as a duty.  The performance of this duty is further complicated by the likelihood that the perpetrator has been apprehended by police while still performing the first act and  almost certainly is not carrying any cleaning materials.  Thus, the poor soul can be fined up to $500.00 for making the mess and another $500.00 for failing to clean it up.

The ordinance does not create much opportunity for a defense.  Although consent by a private property owner is technically a defense, the Magistrate is unlikely to believe it. I suppose that this defense might work if one is caught urinating in one’s own back yard.

The ordinance contains no mention of one obvious defense — medical emergency.  As attested by TV commercials aimed at persons over 50, some of us are subject to sudden urgent attacks (even when not drinking alcohol) at a time when no known restroom is available. If you are one of those people, stay out of the City on Saturday night, after Steeler games and on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you can’t arrange that, wear a diaper.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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