Indecent exposure laws are on the books to criminalize the intentional display of the genitals when around others. Displaying the genitals in social settings is offensive and reason for alarm. Unfortunately, some people falsely accuse others of indecent exposure. In certain situations, indecent exposure really does occur as the offender attempts to obtain sexual gratification or provoke a sexual reaction by displaying his or her privates in public. It is particularly interesting to note that indecent exposure laws vary quite considerably from one state to the next. As an example, in order for an individual to be found guilty of indecent exposure in the state of California, opposing counsel is required to prove the defendant had the intent to arouse the other person in a sexual manner, offend the other person in a sexual manner or intentionally sexually insult that person.
Examples of Indecent Exposure
There is some confusion as to what, exactly, constitutes indecent exposure. A mother baring a breast to breastfeed a child in front of others does not qualify as indecent exposure. A man baring his private part to urinate in public qualifies as indecent exposure. Another example is a boyfriend exposing his private parts to his girlfriend while relaxing at the cottage with another couple present. Though the other couple might turn their heads away so they do not have to view the private parts on display, the fact that other people are around makes the act indecent exposure. The bottom line is there is no excuse to put one's private parts on display in any type of public setting. Furthermore, baring one's private parts to another person in a private setting is also a mistake unless both parties are intimate with one another.
Indecent Exposure Distinctions of Note
The California statue that defines indecent exposure makes the willful exposure of the genitals to another person a crime. However, this exposure must be inspired by the desire for sexual gratification or to insult or offend the victim. Exposing the genitals means displaying the naked genitals. However, displaying bare female breast does not qualify as exposing the genitals as breastfeeding mothers are permitted to breastfeed in public. Furthermore, merely flashing another person in one's undergarments does not qualify as indecent exposure even if those garments are sultry. It is also important to note if physical contact is made during the incident of indecent exposure, there is the potential for the charge to rise to the sexual assault level.
The Matter of Public Urination and Indecent Exposure
Plenty of people think those caught urinating in public are also found guilty of indecent exposure. As an example, a person who has had one too many to drink and attempts to relieve himself by urinating behind a convenience store might expose himself in direct view of other people. There is an argument to be made that this act was performed without the intent of generating sexual arousal or offending or gratifying another person. Therefore, it can be argued such an action does not qualify as indecent exposure. If you are accused of indecent exposure, it is prudent to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible to reduce or even eliminate the charge.
Indecent Exposure Charges: The Burden of Proof is on the Prosecutor
Prosecutors are tasked with generating ample evidence that convinces a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt that certain components exist for the offense to prove true. Such components, commonly referred to as elements, typically include exposure in the presence of another person, exposure in a public area, exposure that is willful and the display of private parts.
Exposure That Occurs When Another is Present
In order for indecent exposure to occur, another individual must observe the display of the private part(s) in clear sight. If no one is around to see the supposed indecent exposure, the charge will have no merit. Furthermore, certain states mandate that the person who sees the indecent exposure be of the opposite sex. Therefore, if no one is within sight of the area in which the indecent exposure allegedly occurred or if there is a low likelihood anyone would be within sight, the indecent exposure charge will likely be thrown out of court. Regardless of where your indecent exposure charge is filed, it will follow you around like a black cloud for the remainder of your life unless you put up a legal battle with the assistance of our attorneys.
The Exposure of Private Body Parts
Displaying a bare shoulder, breast, thigh or another body part that is not considered private means an indecent exposure charge will not hold water. Private parts are the male and female genitals along with the buttocks. Private is the operative word.
In order for indecent exposure to have occurred, the exposure must be willful. In other words, the individual in question must have intended that the exposure of his or her private parts be visible to others in the vicinity. As an example, an individual who hops into a jacuzzi and finds the impact of the water on the swimming trunks leads to unintended nudity. The requirement for willful exposure is not met in such a situation.
The Willful Exposure of a Private Body Part Must Occur in a Public Setting
If it can be proven the individual in question willfully exposed a private body part in a public place, indecent exposure will have occurred. As an example, willfully exposing one's genitals in a public park, restaurant, retail setting or concern is exposure in a public place. Even if the area in question is privately owned, exposing one's genitals in such a setting qualifies as exposure in a public setting. However, something like a bedroom within a home that is not visible to those along the home's exterior does not qualify as a public place.
How to Proceed if You Have Been Charged with Indecent Exposure
Indecent exposure is not a charge to take lightly. Do not assume you cannot put up a fight against this charge. Meet with an attorney as soon as possible for the unique facts of your case to be reviewed in-depth. Even a minor mistake made by the opposing side has the potential to clear your name and reduce or even eliminate the indecent exposure charge.
However, if you fail to hire an attorney, you run the risk of losing the case and ending up with an indecent exposure charge that follows you around for the remainder of your life. It might even be necessary to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life if you lose your case. Do not let an honest mistake, misunderstanding or prank gone wrong ruin your life or even slightly compromise your quality of living. Do not forget your reputation is on the line. If the indecent exposure charge holds true and you lose your case, you will have to carry this label around for decades, making it difficult to live a normal life, maintain gainful employment and be viewed as an equal in your community.
Instances in Which No Witnesses See the Private Parts
In some situations, those in the vicinity of the defendant do not actually see his or her private parts. If it can be determined a reasonable person would know the exposure of the genitals would make it possible for others to see them, the indecent exposure charge will likely remain. As an example, if someone shifts their gaze to avoid looking at the private parts of the defendant, the act of exposure might suffice for a guilty verdict even though no one actual observed the private part(s).
When Indecent Exposure Becomes a Felony
An individual who is convicted for his or her first offense for indecent exposure is typically guilty of a misdemeanor. If he is or she is found guilty of several misdemeanor offenses, it is possible for an indecent exposure charge to increase to the felony level. The deciding factor is the total number of previous convictions. The assistance of a skilled attorney will heighten the odds of a successful negotiation with opposing counsel that drops the felony indecent exposure charge to a less-serious misdemeanor charge.
Common Legal Defenses to Indecent Exposure Charges
Certain indecent exposure laws mandate that the party being charged have a sexual motive. This motivation is commonly referred to as lascivious intent in the context of the law. As an example, there are some situations in which an individual who relieves him or herself with public urination does not have the intent to stimulate sexual desire or inspire any sort of sexual gratification. Such an individual will not be found guilty of indecent exposure.
Furthermore, if there is a lack of intent to expose oneself to a third party, the defendant might be found innocent. For example, if someone strips down to their birthday suit on a hotel room balcony or in a room in which the curtain errantly flies open, creating the opportunity for someone else to see private body parts, the defendant lacks intent. It will be difficult to prove the defendant is guilty of indecent exposure in such a situation.
Penalties for Indecent Exposure
In the vast majority of cases, the initial indecent exposure condition results in misdemeanor penalties. These penalties include a couple months spent in the county jail along with a fine. However, an individual found guilty of a second indecent exposure offense will likely face a felony charge along with a state prison sentence. There is also the potential to have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life even if you did not expose yourself to children or harm children in any way.
At worst, the defendant will be found guilty and incarcerated. The sentence might include time in the county jail and/or one or several years in state prison. The judge might even mandate that the full sentence be spent in jail. Fines for indecent exposure are meant to mitigate the expenses involved in operating the criminal justice system and punish the offending party. Fines differ according to the unique circumstances of each indecent exposure case yet they typically start around the $1,000 level.
Those found guilty of indecent exposure are often subjected to court-mandated community service. In some situations, courts require that the defendant spend a certain amount of time volunteering throughout the community as a component of his or her probation. Furthermore, the individual found guilty of indecent exposure will be forced to meet with his or her probation officer on a regular basis. Additional conditions and terms such as meeting with a court-appointed counselor and holding down a steady job will also be mandatory.
Remain Calm After Being Charged with Indecent Exposure
The assistance of a savvy criminal defense attorney can make the difference between beating an indecent exposure charge and ending up with a lengthy jail stay. Your attorney will explain the letter of the law, analyze your case and proceed accordingly. What matters most is that you remain calm and collected throughout this legal challenge.
Your lawyer will attempt to reduce the fines or possibly reach a plea agreement that removes the possibility of having to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. Furthermore, the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who has relationships with local prosecutors and judges will help your cause from the moment the charges are initially filed. Hold steady, lean on your attorney for ongoing assistance and you will emerge from this predicament with minimal, if any, punishment.
Hiring the Right Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you are charged with indecent exposure, do not assume you are powerless. Our legal team will evaluate the circumstances of your unique case and develop the optimal legal strategy to clear your name. We will gather evidence, identify witnesses, prove your innocence and ensure your reputation is kept in good standing. Reach out to us to schedule an initial consultation. You can contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin by dialing 310-273-9600. Give us a call today to coordinate an appointment and find out more about how we can defend against charges of indecent exposure.