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Nuisance

Public Nuisance

The term public nuisance covers a wide variety of minor crimes that threaten the health, morals, safety, comfort, convenience, or welfare of a community. Violators may be punished by a criminal sentence, a fine, or both. A defendant may also be required to remove a nuisance or to pay the costs of removal. For example, a manufacturer who has polluted a stream might be fined and might also be ordered to pay the cost of cleanup. Public nuisances may interfere with public health, such as in the keeping of diseased animals or a malarial pond. Public safety nuisances include shooting fireworks in the streets, storing explosives, practicing medicine without a license, or harboring a vicious dog. Houses of prostitution, illegal liquor establishments, GAMING houses, and unlicensed prizefights are examples of nuisances that interfere with public morals. Obstructing a highway or creating a condition to make travel unsafe or highly disagreeable are examples of nuisances threatening the public convenience.

A public nuisance interferes with the public as a class, not merely one person or a group of citizens. No civil remedy exists for a private citizen harmed by a public nuisance, even if his or her harm was greater than the harm suffered by others; a criminal prosecution is the exclusive remedy. However, if the individual suffers harm that is different from that suffered by the general public, the individual may maintain a TORT ACTION for damages. For example, if dynamiting has thrown a large boulder onto a public highway, those who use the highway cannot maintain a nuisance action for the inconvenience. However, a motorist who is injured from colliding with the boulder may bring a tort action for personal injuries.

Some nuisances can be both public and private in certain circumstances where the public nuisance substantially interferes with the use of an individual's adjoining land. For example, POLLUTION of a river might constitute both a public and a private nuisance. This is known as a mixed nuisance.

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