Thursday, October 11, 2007

When You Gotta Go...You Gotta Go!

The city council for a town in my area has shown some common sense, which is becoming increasingly rare these days. Members of this council have proposed a city ordinance that would make public urination a misdemeanor, instead of being classified as indecent exposure. If the measure passes, public pee-ers will be charged with something similar to public disorderly conduct, which is an umbrella charge covering offenses such as public drunkenness and other types of relatively minor, obnoxious public behavior.

Currently, under state law, anyone caught urinating in public is charged with indecent exposure, which is a sex crime. Once convicted of that crime, that person would be required to register as a sex offender. At least 13 states require registration for public urination; of those, two limit registration to those who committed the act in view of a minor.

In at least one state that considers public urination as indecent exposure, a single conviction means the offender's name, and possibly his or her photograph, will be placed on the state's registry of sex offenders. But under a new federal law passed in an overzealous effort to protect children from sex offenders, states are required to include anyone convicted of indecent exposure twice within three years in the registry.

As one might imagine, being listed on a sex offender registry ruins lives, sometimes permanently. Many lose their jobs, and, in a growing number of cities, offenders have to move away from schools, parks and day-care centers, either uprooting their families or living apart from them.

I think it's a pretty harsh penalty for taking a leak outside. How many of us haven't taken a leak in an alley on the way home from a night of drinking when in college? And who hasn't answered the call of nature -- or whose kids have done so -- shielded between two open car doors on the side of the road, when the need is urgent and the "Next Exit" is 67 miles down the road?

People, especially as they get older, can have medical conditions and take medications that result in a frequent need to go, accompanied by an decreasing ability to "hold it" for any extended length of time. In many areas, public facilities are few and far between and many businesses permit restroom use by customers only. Indeed, I remember my father one time slipping behind a fence at the back of a convenience store because he simply couldn't wait until he got home or to drive somewhere where they'd let him use the restroom.

To be sure, public urination can be offensive, especially if the person makes insufficient effort to shield what they're doing, but it's totally ludicrous to group such people with pedophiles and other true sex offenders on a registry.

Let's face it -- just because I use the same equipment to fuck with as pee with doesn't make public urination a sex offense. What's next -- will mothers nursing their babies on a bench at the mall be charged with indecent exposure and have to register, too, because their breasts serve a dual purpose?

The enactment and enforcement of laws pertaining to sex offenses has often taken on a tone of near-hysteria in recent years. Instead of narrowly defining sex offenses to include violent rapists and those who prey on young children, for example, the "sex offender" umbrella has gotten absurdly wider to include teens having consensual sex, public pee-ers, and the like.

I can only see the actions of this city council and similar ones in cities across the nation as a good sign, as a return to the common sense of having punishments that actually fit the crimes.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Urination is on the same level as breast feeding. If you need to pee you should be able to pee on the ground somewhere or in the pants as a last resort. I suppose if you got to make it illegal to pee then what they came up with is better than being labeled a sex offender. People are also supposed to clean up after walking their dogs but some carry the sack and look the other way while their dogs poop. Laws are really amazing. A stop sign is a classic. Out in the middle of nowhere. You can see for 20 miles in both directions and nothing is coming. Come to a 4-way stop. Would you stop or run the stop sign?