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The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has ruled that an intoxicated man who intentionally peed all over the floor of a state police barracks cannot be charged with vandalism with “noxious or filthy substance” (M.G.L. c. 266, Section 103).

This case requires us to determine whether urine constitutes a noxious or filthy substance within the parameters of the statute. Because we conclude that it does not, we affirm the dismissal of the criminal complaint brought against the defendant for violation of § 103.

According to the court’s summary of the facts, the defendant was arrested in 2020 by Massachusetts State Police for driving under the influence. The police report that the defendant was verbally abusive and uncooperative with the booking process. Ultimately he was confined to a holding cell in the police barracks.

Hours later an officer went to the defendant’s cell to check on him. Here’s what the officer found:

The defendant had urinated on the floor both inside and outside of the cell. Based on the location of the toilet in the cell, the officer stated that “it [was] apparent that [the defendant] purposely urinated through the cell bars on to the floor outside the cell.” The urine had “seeped into the cracks between the floor tiles, potentially causing permanent damage to the sub floor beneath.” Because urine, like other bodily fluids, can carry potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses, police hired a cleanup company specializing in cleaning hazardous fluids and spills to clean the defendant’s cell.

As stated, the police charged the defendant with vandalism by use of a “noxious or filthy substance.”

The defendants attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charge. The motion was granted by the district court. The district court’s decision was overturned by the appeals court. The defendant then challenged the appeals court ruling at the SJC.

After a lengthy but interesting discussion of the statute’s history, the SJC concluded that the law was not intended to apply to urine and was not a viable charge against the defendant.