When a person intentionally exposes their genitals to another person in an inappropriate manner they have engaged in indecent exposure which is a criminal act. Indecent exposure can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the conditions surrounding the offense. This means that a person who was caught urinating in public will likely be charged with a lesser level of indecent exposure—and receive a lesser penalty—than the person who has intent to expose themselves to others. While many feel that indecent exposure is not a serious crime it should, in fact, be taken quite seriously as it falls under sex crimes. In fact, a conviction for indecent exposure can have life-altering consequences, causing you to be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of your life.
How Does the Prosecutor Prove Indecent Exposure?
There are essentially three things the prosecutor must show in order to prove you committed the act of indecent exposure. First, he or she must show you exposed yourself intentionally. This means that if you happened to be swimming in a public pool, had a wardrobe malfunction and your swimming suit fell off, you cannot be charged with indecent exposure. Or suppose a group of young men were horsing around and one yanked the pants of another, exposing the unwitting person. Again, this is hardly intentional behavior and does not fall under purposely and intentionally exposing oneself. Second, the exposure must have taken place in public or in an area where other people were present and would likely be offended by the exposure. If you are walking around naked at a nudist camp, then obviously others will not be offended since they are likely doing the same thing.
If children witnessed the exposure it will be a bit more difficult—but not impossible. Even if you were in a public place if you were in an area you thought was out of the view of any bystanders, you cannot be found guilty of indecent exposure. Third, the prosecutor must prove specific intent—in other words you were deliberately and purposely calling attention to your genitals with a sexual intent. Intent is the most important element in proving or defending the charges of indecent exposure. Suppose an elderly man with prostate trouble ducked behind a bush to relieve himself, believing he was out of view from the public, yet someone spotted him. The element of intent is simply not present in such a situation. By the same token, “mooning” is not generally considered indecent exposure because it lacks the specific intent to expose the genitals just as showing one’s breasts, whether for a quick “thrill” or for breastfeeding does not qualify as indecent exposure.
Charges for Indecent Exposure
The crime of indecent exposure is considered a wobbler meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. While it may seem that a misdemeanor charge for indecent exposure wouldn’t be all that serious, if you are convicted for simple misdemeanor indecent exposure you may still be required to register as a sex offender. If you find yourself facing felony indecent exposure in addition to being required to register as a sex offender you could face from months to as many as three years in a state prison as well as having a fine as high as $10,000 assessed.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney could mean the difference in a conviction and a dismissal, and that difference leads to the difference between going back to your normal life and having to register as a sex offender. Your attorney may argue accidental exposure, mistaken identity, may bring in an alibi witness for you, may claim voluntary intoxication or may argue that the exposure was for a purpose other than sexual exhibition. Whatever you do, don’t take indecent exposure charges lightly. Hire an attorney immediately who can protect your future and your rights.