Swedish court rules public urination is not a crime in some cases

A man contemplating public urination is feeling pangs of conscience – and trying to decide whether that outweighs the potential for public humiliation.

Thanks to the Nacka ruling, he only needs to hold it until he can move to Sweden. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Keith Harris/Flickr)

The Local reports that a Swedish court recently acquitted a 45-year-old man of his fine for urinating in public. The Nacka resident (Nacka is a suburb of Stockholm) tried to urinate without offending anyone, which was enough for the Stockholm court to drop charges.

The Nacka ruling brings public urination to the masses

Most people have the capability to urinate in public – assuming an elaborate catheter isn’t required – but the vast majority fear either public censure or the long arm of the law. The Swedish newspaper Metro points out that public urination is indeed banned by statute in Sweden – there’s an 800 kronor fine ($120) – but that didn’t stop about 5,000 Swedes at critical mass from seeking public relief in 2009.

However, the Nacka ruling (as it is now popularly called in Sweden) changes the playing field. The door may now be open for Swedes to avoid fines for public urination in the event of emergency. So long as the afflicted makes reasonable effort to find a toilet, and barring that avoids blatant public exposure and shields body parts, a Swedish court may allow public urinators to walk. That’s a legal precedent that may sound like a boon to the Spring Break Stockholm crowd, but in reality it could wind up being a sticky interpretation-related mess for Swedish law enforcement. Where does a cop draw the line? When does restraint become necessary?

‘Intent to offend was lacking’

Stockholm district court Judge Annika Johansson determined that the Nacka resident’s actions were not intended to offend others and were not inherently offensive. The man was waiting for a bus in an area without public toilets. Eventually he could wait no longer and stationed himself behind the bus stop façade. Evidently he was not intoxicated and conducted himself as discretely as possible under the circumstances.

America, take note. Observance of law and reasonable interpretation can co-exist.


The Local

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