St. Louis alderman wants to ease public urination penalties

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- A St. Louis alderman is pushing a measure that could lower the penalties in the city for some instances of public urination, which currently is classified as lewd and lascivious conduct.

Ken Ortmann, an alderman who also owns a local tavern, hopes to get the bill passed into law before the annual Mardi Gras Parade on Feb. 25.

Public urination "does not uniformly constitute indecent exposure," his bill says, and should not always be considered the same as sex offenses.

Ortmann said his bill would allow police to issue different citations for public urinators who try to be discreet than they might for those who are more open about it.

"There's a difference between going in the middle of the street, in front of God and country, and somebody who is behind a Dumpster," said Ortmann, owner of the Cat's Meow bar in Soulard.

The bill, introduced last week, has been referred to the Public Safety Committee, where it is expected to get a quick hearing. If passed, it would apply to events throughout the city, including sporting events and concerts.

The penalty for lewd and lascivious conduct -- which includes public urination -- is a fine of $100 to $500, 90 days in jail, or both. Ortmann's proposal doesn't change the maximum penalties, but he hopes the actual penalty would be much less.

Police chief Joe Mokwa, who supports the bill, agreed that public urination does not need to be grouped with "indecent and lewd conduct" such as exposing genitals or performing sex acts in public.

"Not that urinating in public is not offensive enough," Mokwa said.

It's plenty offensive to residents of Soulard, where homeowners are fed up with outsiders coming into their neighborhood for Mardi Gras and leaving it in worse shape than they found it.

"It's disgusting. We hate it," said Mary Linden, who has lived in Soulard for more than 30 years. She said some homeowners leave their sprinklers on to discourage partygoers from relieving themselves on their lawns.

"That's what portable toilets are for," Linden said. "We don't appreciate going out and seeing it -- the people are often belligerent. We have many, many Johnny on the Spots. Maybe it's not enough."


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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