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UISG: Distinguish public urination from sex-offenses

BY GUEST OPINION | MARCH 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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On Tuesday night, the City Council approved the first vote of an ordinance amending section 6 of City Code 8-5-6. For those who are unfamiliar with the code, section 8-5-6 pertains to committing acts of indecent exposure and conduct.

At present, this ordinance principally defines sexually offensive infractions — acts such as public displays of masturbation or sexual intercourse. However, 8-5-6 is also where it is deemed unlawful to urinate in public. Herein lies the problem. 8-5-6 unreasonably agglomerates those who are committing lewd or sexual acts with those who are not.

By no means should urinating in public be tolerated, and those who are charged with doing so should be reprimanded. However, the current ordinance is ambiguous and does little to distinguish between indecent exposure and indecent conduct. This in turn creates undue consequences for those who have been cited as violating 8-5-6.

Greg Bal, the supervising attorney for University of Iowa Student Legal Services attests to several incidents in which his office has been contacted by prospective employers of UI graduates to help clarify a student's criminal record as it applies to section 8-5-6.

The lack of clear distinction between the infractions circumscribed within 8-5-6 has the potential to create unfair misconceptions about those who are charged with violating the section, and as a result, UI graduates who have been charged with urinating in public may wrongfully be denied admittance to graduate programs or be dismissed from consideration for employment under the erroneous belief that they have committed sexually offensive acts.

What I have proposed is to simply detach public urination from the already existing section and create a new section that would deal solely with public urination and defecation.

Amending the City Code in order to create a clearer interpretation of this ordinance is just and well within reason. What I have proposed to the City Council will in no way minimize current fines or penalties but serve to remove any prejudicial consequences of the current ordinance.

— Cody Graham is the UI Student Government's liaison to the City Council.


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