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An Overview of Indecent Exposure Law

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Indecent exposure is a criminal offense where someone exposes their private parts or body in the presence of another person. Exposure could have been intended as a joke, for sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or to offend another. If someone else is offended or annoyed by the exposure, it could lead to criminal charges.

Exposure and other indecent acts often involve some misunderstanding. A one-time mistake should not necessarily have to harm someone’s future permanently. Before agreeing to a plea deal, the prosecutor offers, it is essential to understand your rights. The information below provides an overview of indecent exposure charges and finding the right criminal defense lawyer.

What Is Indecent Exposure?

Indecent exposure is a broad term generally referring to public exposure of private body parts. Exposure could involve public masturbation, sex in public, public urination, or being naked in public, which is considered indecent by others. For example, in some jurisdictions, flashing female breasts during a Mardi Gras parade could be considered indecent exposure.

Indecent exposure is generally considered a sex crime. Other related sex crimes may include:

  • Lewd conduct
  • Public indecency
  • Lascivious acts

Is Public Nudity Indecent Exposure?

The standards around indecency and nudity in the United States have changed slowly. Public indecency is generally based on local standards. What might be indecent in a small town might not be considered indecent in a big city. In most states, it is still publicly permissible for a man to expose his nipples in a public place but not for a woman.

In states where public nudity is not illegal, public nudity may be considered indecent or lewd with evidence that the person is sexually motivated or intends to shock, offend, or arouse another.

Criminal Penalties for Indecent Exposure

Under criminal law, the penalties for indecent exposure may depend on the individual situation and state indecent exposure laws. A first-time conviction for the crime of indecent exposure could be a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, the penalties may include a maximum of up to 1 year in county jail and a fine. As a felony charge, indecent exposure could be punishable by more than a year in state prison, fines, and registration as a sex offender.

The penalties for indecent exposure generally increase if the defendant has prior convictions for indecent exposure or other sex crimes. Indecent exposure in front of a minor may also result in more serious criminal charges.

Do I Have To Register As a Sex Offender for Indecent Exposure?

The most serious consequence of an indecent exposure conviction is registration as a sex offender. Many states consider indecent exposure to be a “registerable offense.” In states that don’t require registration for a first offense of indecent exposure, a second conviction or exposure before a minor may qualify as a registerable offense.

Registered sex offenders have many restrictions put on their lives, including where they can live and what jobs they can take. Sex offenders may be restricted from living within a certain distance from a school, playground, or bus stop.

Each state has its own laws and statutes on sex offender registration. Depending on the state and the status of the sex offender, much of the information in the registry is public. Neighbors, coworkers, and the public can search the sex offender registry by name or location to find offenders. Information maintained in the sex offender registry may include the following:

  • Name
  • Physical description
  • Address
  • Sex offense history
  • Age and sex of the offender’s victim
  • Current photograph

Sex offender registration will generally follow the offender for years. Some sex crimes require lifetime registration. Sex offenders must register with their local law enforcement office within a few days of release from prison. Offenders will have to re-register every year or anytime they plan to move, or they can also risk another Felony charge of failing to register as a predatory offender.

Defense Strategies to Indecent Exposure Charges

It can be difficult to defend against charges of indecent exposure. The public may jump to conclusions and think you are guilty because of a simple misunderstanding. With jail time and much more at stake, fighting for your rights and reputation is vital.

There are common defense strategies when facing sex crime charges for indecent exposure, including where the exposure was unintentional or accidental. In many situations, the person never intended anyone else to see their genitalia and was surprised to find another person there to see them naked.

If you are accused of indecent exposure or lewd conduct, remember the prosecutor must prove all elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands high-stakes sex crimes and legal defenses. Sex crime charges can be embarrassing, but the attorney-client privilege will protect your conversation with your lawyer.

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