Indecent exposure is the inappropriate showing of one’s sexual organs in public. Indecent exposure is an offense largely related to what one might call inappropriate display of an offender’s genitals, buttocks or breasts to a non-consenting or minor person(s).
This offense is typically pursued at the state level, rather than the federal level, barring severe aggravating circumstances worthy of their own criminal charges such as kidnapping, sexual abuse, etc.
Indecent exposure is considered to be a “lesser” offense among sex offenses because usually it does not involve forced or non consensual sexual conduct and does not have a direct victim.
However, indecent exposure is still considered a sexual offense, and can lead to serious consequences – particularly if you enter the indecent exposure trial without proper legal representation.
Indecent exposure may be categorized as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the jurisdiction of the charges as well as the circumstances of the alleged offense itself.
In California, for example, a first charge of indecent exposure is classified as a misdemeanor offense. However, given that indecent exposure is considered to be a sex crime within California’s legal boundaries, even a conviction for a first offense misdemeanor can lead to mandatory registration as a sex offender for 10 years. Charges can be further escalated as aggravated indecent exposure if the offense involves the unwanted entry into another person’s residence.
In California, aggravated indecent exposure or simple indecent exposure with prior convictions for lewd acts with a minor, or indecent exposure itself, can be felonies with stiff penalties.
The penalty for indecent exposure ranges depending on the jurisdiction in which the charges are levied as well as the severity of the charges due to the circumstances of the offense.
In general, if you are convicted of indecent exposure, the punishment may include:
In Texas, indecent exposure is categorized as a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction for the offense results in a penalty of up to 180 days in county jail, potential probation, as well as a fine of no more than $2,000.
If the offender knowingly commits indecent exposure in front of a child aged 16 or younger, charges are enhanced to the level of a third degree felony. In this case, the potential penalty is also expanded to a sentence of up to 10 years in jail, and fines of up to $10,000.
In Illinois, indecent exposure falls under the legal umbrella of a Class A misdemeanor except in cases involving repeat offenses or proximity to a school.
Upon a third conviction for indecent exposure, or in cases wherein the offense takes place within 500 feet of a school at a time where children are present, you could face Class 4 felony charges. Misdemeanor convictions for this crime in Illinois result in a penalty of up to one year imprisonment, convictions for the Class 4 felony result in one to three years imprisonment as well as a fine of up to $25,000.
Indecent exposure in front of a child or minor typically results in escalated charges and sentencing if convicted.
In some states, a simple charge of indecent exposure for first-time offenders carries a potential penalty of up to one year in jail in addition to a fine of no more than $1,000. However, those who commit indecent exposure in front of a child may face escalated charges to include sex abuse.
Potential penalties for this offense range from up to 15 years imprisonment, life-long registration as a sex offender and mandatory counseling classes as penalty for a felony conviction.
There are several defenses available to those looking to beat or defeat charges of indecent exposure. Some of these common defenses are available in many jurisdictions, while others may pertain to one state’s statutes only.
Intent is a large portion of most charges of indecent exposure. Say, for example, a man was urinating in a darkened alleyway outside of a local drinking establishment. It may be the case that he was exposing his genitalia and there may be ordinances against the act of public urination but if the accused is obviously minding his own business there may be a case to be made that intent was not a factor.
Without intent, in many jurisdictions, there is no case for indecent exposure particularly if there was no specific intent to provoke or annoy others.
Simple innocence can be a viable defense as well, depending upon the circumstances. In many states not actually displaying naked breasts, buttocks or genitalia is an absolute defense. The display of underwear or undergarments, for whatever purposes, is enough to defray the prosecution’s case. Additionally, eyewitness accounts or other material evidence may suggest that you did not actually engage in indecent exposure at all.
An indecent exposure attorney can help you understand your rights, walk you through the state and federal laws that apply to your case and put together the best possible defense to alleviate your chances of receiving the aforementioned punishments.
Lastly, if you are accused of committing this comparatively minor sexual offense, you should do everything in your power to avoid the lifetime discrimination that comes with being labeled as a registered sex offender, not to mention being grouped together with much more severe criminal acts.
If someone claims that you have committed an act of indecent exposure, and you believe he or she may seek legal restitution for the alleged experience, it is important to take this accusation seriously. Consult with legal counsel immediately, preferably an attorney who is fluent in the indecent exposure laws in your jurisdiction and has experience representing people in your position.
The first step to protecting your rights and your reputation is to hire a lawyer who will get you through the trial, clear your name of these charges and allow you to put this experience behind you and move forward with your life.