california public urination laws

Experienced parents all know that raising children is no easy task. A parent never really knows how their child is going to behave at any given moment. This is especially true for youngsters. Their moods and needs can change from moment to moment and no matter how hard a parent may try to prepare, they can still be caught off guard.

One particular incident that can arise with younger children, especially during potty-training, is the child needing to go to the bathroom and not being able to find an available toilet nearby. When little ones say they need to go, they need to go. They can’t hold it like adults do. This can lead to parents having to face a tough decision: Do they let their child pee in public to avoid an accident? If they do, could they get into trouble with the law?

Public Urination Law

Here in California, it is a crime for a person to urinate in a public place. The act is made illegal under state law and typically under local city ordinances too. This is because public urination leads to an increase in the spread of diseases and adds understandable health concerns. This also negatively affects the area and local businesses since the smell tends to keep people away.

If a person is caught urinating in public, they can face either infraction or misdemeanor charges depending on where the incident occurred. If a person is charged with an infraction under a city ordinance, then they face a small fine between $100 and $500, depending on the city. As a misdemeanor charge under a city ordinance, a person faces:

  • Up to 6 months in jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.

If the person is charged under Penal Code (PC) 372, the state’s public nuisance law, they will face misdemeanor charges that come with:

  • Up to 6 months in jail.
  • A max fine of $500.

Potty-Training on the Go Isn’t Easy

When it comes to kids urinating in public, especially toddlers, the laws are a bit laxer. While the laws against public urination don’t typically mention young children, most law enforcement officers aren’t going to arrest a child, or their parent, for letting the little one pee in public. Most adults understand that when toddlers have to go, the need to go. However, there are those officers out there who might issue citations.

Just because a person might not get into trouble with the law does not mean they should allow their child to do so. As mentioned earlier, urinating in public helps spread diseases and it leaves a nasty odor in the air no matter how well the parent might clean up.

On top of the general hygiene concerns, allowing a child who is in the midst of potty-training to go wherever they want, whenever, can send mixed messages to the child. This can confuse the child and actually lead to more accidents in the future.

As stressful as these kinds of situations can be for a parent, they are bound to happen during potty-training. Some tips on how to handle these accidents, because there will be a lot, include:

  • Keeping an extra set of clothes. Parents should continue to carry an extra set of clothes for their toddlers with them until the potty-training is well behind them. This way, they will have a spare set in case of accidents.
  • Use Pull-Ups. Disposable training pants may be a crutch for some kids who are going through potty-training, however, they can also be very helpful under special circumstances. If a parent is planning on taking their child on a long car ride, or on long city trips, using the disposable training pants might be wise.
  • Use a portable potty. These can be very handy in allowing children to discreetly go in the car while running errands around town.

Toddlers Need to Go When They Need to Go

While it is highly unlikely that a parent will get into any serious trouble for allowing their child to go in public, it is often best to avoid the practice. Allowing children to urinate wherever can confuse them and risks everyone’s health and safety. Plus, one never knows if they will run into that one cop who has no understanding of how desperate a situation it is when a toddler needs to go to the potty.