Indecent exposure is a common crime that can arise out of mistaken identity. Owing to the latest fashion trends, it becomes hard to draw the line between indecency and normal. Although it seems like a minor offense, the consequences of an indecent exposure conviction can be long-lasting because if convicted, it will show in your criminal background checks. If you are caught with such charges, it would be wise to seek the expert services of the Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Our attorneys deal with clients throughout Vista, California, and the greater North County.
What is Indecent Exposure?
Indecent exposure or public indecency is knowingly showing off one’s genitals or private parts in a public place with disregard to the frightening, offensive and degrading effects that the action may have to the individuals present. The primary indecent exposure charge is classified as a misdemeanor. However, other aggravating situations which may involve children are charged as a felony and you may have to register as a sex offender.
Exposing your private parts in places such as parks, stores, restaurants or roads falls under the public place requirement. However, exposure in other places where people are present even if the area is not public could also attract indecent exposure charges.
Some of the actions viewed as indecent exposure according to California laws include urinating in public, nude sunbathing, changing clothes publicly and public masturbation. When the actions become more extreme like having sexual intercourse in a public place, the crime becomes a form of Lewd conduct, and this charge attracts severe penalties compared to a mere public indecency.
When the exposure involves contact with a child below 15 years, it is known as lewd acts with a child and attracts more severe consequences. The acts may include showing your genitals to a child or suggesting them to do the same. However, although breastfeeding involves exposure of a private part, it is excluded from the indecent exposure laws of California.
Evidence that a Prosecutor Uses to Prove Indecent Exposure
A prosecutor is required to produce sufficient evidence to the judges showing all elements of the offense during an indecent exposure case. These components may vary depending on the circumstances and may include;
- Exposure of the Genitals
For a substantial trial to be held, the prosecutor should prove that you exposed your private parts in an open place. However, exposure of underwear without a visible body part does not count as indecent exposure.
- Willful Exposure
A prosecutor should prove to the court that you knowingly exposed your private parts with an intention to offend the person watching you. To get indecent exposure charges, the exposure should have been intentional. In situations where your genitals were accidentally exposed like in the case where the wind blows your clothes and you are exposed, you cannot get convicted.
- Exposure in Public Places
According to the California law, every place whether outdoor or indoor where other people can access is deemed as a public place. If there is enough proof that you acted recklessly in those areas and ended up showing off your nakedness, you can face indecent exposure charges.
An example is when you entered someone’s house and exposed your genitals where other people were offended. Even though the area is private, you can be sued for public indecency.
If you are in a place where you expect utmost privacy, but there happens to be an unexpected viewer, it is essential to seek the services of a qualified lawyer to help you contest your case.
- Presence of Someone Else During the Exposure
To be found guilty of this offense, the exposure must have taken place in the presence of another person who was likely to be annoyed or offended by that act. In some cases, exposing yourself in a situation where no one was around could be excluded from indecent exposure charges.
It must be proved that when the defendant decided to expose their private parts publicly, they acted lewdly and tried to direct public attention to their private parts for sexual gratification, hence, offending the people who witnessed the act.
What are the Legal Penalties for Indecent Exposure?
Indecent exposure in California attracts different penalties depending on the circumstance of the crime and the defense presented.
First-time offender penalties
The California indecent exposure law, under penal code 314 PC treats the offense for first-time offenders as a misdemeanor. Some of the common charges in such a circumstance include:
- A six-month jail term in a county jail
- A one thousand dollar fine ($1000)
- A minimum of 10 years in the sex offenders register under the penal code 290
Aggravated indecent exposure penalties
One is charged with aggravated indecent exposure if they expose their body parts in an inhabited home, office or motor vehicle without the consent of the owner. The crime is treated as a wobbler and offenders can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of your case and the defense.
If charged as a misdemeanor, similar charges as those of simple misdemeanor are given. However, the latter attracts a one-year jail term.
If charged as a felony, the following penalties are given:
- A sixteen months, two years or three years jail term in a state prison
- A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000)
- A minimum of 10 years in the sex offenders register under the penal code 290
Repeat offenders penalties
Second-time offenders are people who are either convicted with indecent exposure for the second time in a row or are those charged for a second time with a pending indecent exposure case. Such cases automatically qualify as felonies and the penalties are similar to those discussed earlier.
Sexual Offender Registry
As earlier alluded, all indecent exposure charges attract a 10-year registration into the sex offender registry under the penal code 290 PC. Being on the sexual offender registry can potentially affect your personal and professional life. However, failure to comply with this registration attracts felony charges if you were charged with a felony in the case, or a misdemeanor charge orders the registration. The offense can attract a jail term of up to one (1) year in a county jail or three (3) years in state prison.
Long Term Consequences of an Indecent Exposure Conviction
It is often unlikely for an individual to expose their private parts in public. However, if this accidentally happens and you are convicted of indecent exposure, you could end up facing a lifelong social stigma associated with these crimes.
Criminal offenses stick to your record for a long time, and in this case, you could be enlisted as a sex offender. Getting a job with such a file is difficult since the record shows up on your background checks and most employers will not want to have someone who has a history of exposing themselves in their companies.
Homeowners and landlords avoid selling or renting houses to individuals with a criminal record; hence, indecent exposure charges could dim your chances of getting decent housing. An individual charged with indecent exposure especially if it involved a child is seen as a sex offender and will most likely get banned from visiting places where there are children, such as parks, swimming pools, and playgrounds.
Additionally, public indecency charges lead to imprisonment and this can lower your self-esteem or affect your personal relationships. Mainly because most people are cautious when associating with ex-convicts or even allowing them into their homes.
Weekly counseling sessions on sex are recommended for repeat offenders and the counselor is required to provide a weekly report to the courts.
Additional Charges for Indecent Exposure Defendants
To some extent, indecent exposure charges could be too severe that they attract other sexually related charges, making it difficult for the defendant to escape punishment. The additional offenses charged alongside this crime include.
- Sexual assault
Getting caught up in sexual assault charges is a big concern for everyone. The claims are likely to affect the defendant’s family, job and other relations. This criminal record can impact you for a lifetime. Besides, the legal penalties could be very harsh.
If you happen to get charged with public indecency with substantial proof that you had an intention to satisfy your sexual desires during the act, you are likely to get additional charges of sexual assault to the indecent exposure charges. The offense would be treated more harshly, especially if you came in contact with a minor or a member of the opposite sex.
Prosecutors will try their best to ensure individuals with sexually-related charges are convicted. If you are facing these charges, you have a better reason to work with competent legal experts to try and entirely dismiss these charges
- Public Masturbation Charges
Although public masturbation could be an element of indecent exposure, it can be charged as a crime of its own. Public masturbation is a crime if there was the presence of another person during the act and could be very challenging to defend.
In most cases, individuals facing indecent exposure cases get the public masturbation charges too. If you get public indecency charges due to masturbation in a public place, the penalties are likely to be severe. This is because each case will get penalized according to its classification. The humiliation of dealing with these charges could be traumatizing. Therefore, proper representation is required for a better chance of beating these charges and avoiding conviction.
- Lewd Conduct in Public
Under penal code 647(a), anyone who touches him/herself in public with an intention of sexual arousal can be charged with lewd conduct in public. The baseline here is ‘TOUCHING’. Anyone who touches themselves and exposes their private parts in public faces both charges. Most prosecutors like to upgrade this offense to indecent exposure to ascertain that the offender falls in the sex offenders register, hence, inflating the consequences.
Some of the other related offenses include:
Lewd conduct with a minor. This is outlined under the penal code 288 PC and mainly applies to minors below 14 years and the accused is 10 years older than the victim;
Defense against Indecent Exposure Charges
When you are facing indecent exposure charges in California, it is crucial to seek the services of an attorney who is experienced in such cases to help you build a strong defense.
For a successful defense, such cases require careful evaluation and testimonies from witnesses sought to clear you off the charges. Wrong steps taken in handling such a situation will lead to a conviction which affects not only your freedom but also taints your criminal record. Below we have discussed some of the possible defenses that can increase your chances of freedom.
The Viewers Consent
In some situations, you can prove that the person who saw your private parts consented to the act and hence, they were not offended by that act. You could argue that it was an agreement; thus, the rights of the viewer were not violated. However, if a third party witnesses the act, you are still charged with indecent exposure. It is, hence, essential to go over the details of the occurrences before presenting your defense.
Commercial nude dancing is a highly regulated activity. In clubs where these activities take place, rules are followed to ensure that there are consensual entry and restriction to a given age. Therefore, such exposure cannot lead to indecent exposure charges.
If the prosecutor handling your case does not have witnesses or other evidence to prove that you were in the crime scene, you can use this fact to your advantage. By claiming that the person they saw was not you and it was an incidence of mistaken identity, you can discredit this claim and possibly get the case dismissed. However, for such a defense you will require witnesses to give testimonies of what you were doing at the time of the alleged exposure.
To get convicted for public indecency, you must have intentionally or willfully exposed your genitals in the presence of another person. Some indecent exposure cases are a result of a wardrobe malfunction, and you already have the shame to deal with; hence, you don’t think a criminal charge would be added to it. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can argue that the reason why your genitals got exposed to the public was a mere accident and you had no intention of doing so.
Lack of Intent to Expose Yourself
If you had no knowledge or intention to draw public attention to your genitals, you could argue that you lacked the intent necessary for your conviction. The prosecution is also required to show that you exposed your private parts with the intention of sexual gratification or to offend another person. If this cannot be proven, then your chances of freedom are higher.
When another person happens to see your nudity while you are in a place where you expect utmost privacy, the incident exposure can be ruled out with a lack of intent. This is because even if the other person was offended, you were not aware of their presence.
You did not Expose Your Private Parts
For indecent exposure conviction in California, there must be proof that you exposed your genitals to the public and as a result, another person was offended. If you were in underwear or other types of clothing, you could argue that the genitals were not visible to the public; hence, there lacks a reason for you to get convicted.
Mental Disability or Illness
An individual who has a history of diagnosis with some mental issues might not be held liable for their actions. Therefore, if your lawyer can prove that you were not in a stable mental state, the indecent exposure charges against you may be dropped.
Age of the Defendant
Indecent exposure laws require a defendant to have some sexual motivation to get convicted for indecent exposure. However, it is unlikely that a young child or teenager may have the intention of sexual arousal as they expose their private parts. If the defendant is a minor, you can disclaim the intention or need for sexual gratification.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Indecent exposure charges are severe especially if the prosecutor decides to add additional charges such as lewd acts with a minor or lewd acts in public. However, in most cases, indecent exposure is a minor crime and can be fought with a good defense. If you or your loved one is charged with this crime, you will need a criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the case and take care of your interests. If you are in Vista, CA or the greater North County, we invite you to get in touch with the Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm to help handle your case. We will identify any mitigating factors and navigate the possible defenses to help clear you from these charges. Contact our Vista criminal lawyer at 760-691-1551 today and allow us to take control of your case.