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Peeing in Public Isn’t Littering, Appellate Court Rules

A man who urinated on the side of a building had his offensive littering conviction overturned after the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded that his urine didn’t count as a deposit of garbage.

(CN) - A man who urinated on the side of a building had his offensive littering conviction overturned after the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded that his urine didn’t count as a deposit of garbage.

The case had the appellate court panel pondering if the legislature meant to include urine as something a person can litter and related implications.

It all started with a classic road-trip dilemma: finding a place to pee.

In March 2015, Ryan Corcilius was driving across the country, and stopped in Portland. He needed to find a bathroom quickly.

First he tried a gas station.

The bathroom was for customers only.

The same was true of the Subway, where there was a long line of customers waiting for sandwiches.

“He began to panic because of the intense pressure of having to urinate,” the appellate court’s summary says.

Seeing no other choice, Corcilius found a building that looked secluded, and relieved himself on a pillar.

A private security guard named Sam saw it all go down. He approached the 33-year old Corcilius, who told the guard “I couldn’t find a better spot.”

Sam called for a police officer, who issued Corcilius a citation for “offensive littering,” a misdemeanor.

Corcilius moved to acquit the charge, arguing that the statute did not include public urination.

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge disagreed, and ruled that human urine could be contained under the statutory definition of offensive littering. Corcilius received a year of probation and community service.

On appeal, the Oregon Court of Appeals mulled over “objectionable stenches” and “deposits” as they related to both traditional littering and urination.

“If the act of urinating is not an act of ‘discarding,’ then is it an act of ‘depositing’?” pondered Presiding Judge Darleen Ortega.

There are multiple meanings of the word “deposit,” Ortega noted, and balked at the state’s suggestion that in this case it means “to lay down or let fall or drop by a natural process” (like urination).

“That sense of the word is ill-suited to the act of urination and not the way we would expect the legislature to describe that act,” Ortega wrote for the majority.

“We doubt that the legislature would have understood terms more commonly associated with littering to capture the act of public urination,” the judge added.

The statute Corcilius was charged under prohibits people from depositing “rubbish, trash, garbage, debris or other refuse.”

Urine didn’t count as any of these, the majority concluded. The court reversed the conviction.

In a 6-page dissent, Judge Erika Hadlock argued that the term “any other refuse” in the offensive littering statute could include urine, “whether from a human or another animal” and that “deposit” could include urination.

“The legislature’s attention to offensive smells and lack of cleanliness strongly suggest that it was not concerned only with the improper discarding of those kinds of objects,” Hadlock wrote.

“Smells and uncleanliness often are associated with liquid materials, even (or perhaps particularly) those liquids—like urine—that may dry and leave an offensive and unsanitary residue.”

Furthermore, there are different scenarios where a person can urinate in public, Hadlock argued, “that range from being merely inconsiderate to being deliberately offensive or aggressive.”

“Under the majority’s analysis, it seems likely that a person does not commit the crime of offensive littering when the person collects feces and later puts it on the sidewalk, in a bus shelter, or on another person’s doorstep,” Hadlock wrote.

“More questions inevitably will arise: What about other bodily fluids or solids, such as phlegm or blood, that a person may intentionally transfer directly from the body onto a public way or private property? Is dog feces “refuse” for purposes of this statute?”

Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Courts, Law

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