An indecent exposure charge is a serious matter and should never be taken lightly. If found guilty, you could be facing significant fines, incarceration, and more. If you are facing indecent exposure charges, it's important to work with an experienced sex crimes attorney who can help you navigate this complex legal matter.

What is Indecent Exposure?

The precise definition and specific related terms for indecent exposure will vary from state to state. Indecent exposure, in general terms, is any form of vulgar and offensive full or partial nudity, especially of the genitals, which is conducted in a non-private or public place.

These offensive acts are generally carried out in order to gain sexual gratification or in an attempt to entice a sexual response from another. In some states, indecent exposure can also be referred to as public lewdness or sexual misconduct.

Other acts considered as indecent exposure can include:

  • Full or partial nudity in a non-private location or in the public's view
  • Lascivious or lewd exhibitions
  • Sexual intercourse conducted in the view of the public
  • Committing the offense with the intent to shock, offend, or arouse
  • Intentional action to draw attention to full or partial nudity
  • Publically simulating an act which involves sexual activity

In certain situations, an indecent exposure charge can be considered "aggravated". This occurs when the genitals are intentionally and willingly exposed while committing another criminal offense which can include:

  • Genital exposure to a minor
  • Assault
  • Criminal sexual penetration
  • Child abuse

Can You Be Charged with Indecent Exposure in Your Own Home?

Depending on the circumstances, yes, it is possible to be charged with indecent exposure in your own home. In many states, offenders can be convicted of indecent exposure even if it happened in the home or on private property.

Indecent exposure charges can be filed if the prosecutor feels there is evidence proving the perpetrator purposefully exposed his or her bare genitals in the view of the public. In addition, the offender must intentionally and deliberately make themselves visible to the public and attempt to draw attention from neighbors or passers-by.

For example, intentionally exposing your bare genitals in front of an open window or door of your home with the intention of being viewed by a person or persons outside the home can result in indecent exposure charges.

On the other hand, a person may commit involuntary exposure by dressing or undressing in their home without realizing the window or curtains are open. In this case, criminal charges are unlikely due to lack of intent.

Is It Illegal to for a Mother to Breastfeed in Public?

There are currently forty-seven states who have passed laws to protect mothers against indecent exposure charges. These enactments allow moms to breastfeed their child(ren) in any private or public location without fear of facing criminal charges.

Is It Illegal to Urinate in Public?

All 50 states have made urinating in public an illegal act. It's important to keep in mind that specific charges and mandatory sentences can vary from state to state. Ordinarily, the context of the circumstances is taken into consideration to determine whether a crime has been committed.

For example, in the event of an unfortunate emergency, someone steps behind a dumpster after dark to relieve themselves. In this case, criminal indecent exposure charges are unlikely. However, if this same person chose a sidewalk lamppost outside a storefront downtown for relief, he or she could be facing indecent exposure charges.

Other Exceptions to Indecent Exposure Violations

It's important to note that each case is unique. Not every case involving genital exposure will result in criminal charges being filed. Other exceptions to indecent exposure violations can include:

  • Public exposure in designated areas such as a nude beach
  • Involuntary wardrobe malfunctions
  • Commercial nude dancing
  • Lack of sexual motivation or lascivious intent

Is Indecent Exposure a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Typically, a first-time offender will face a misdemeanor indecent exposure charge. However, in cases of repeat offenses, or aggravated circumstances, charges may be upgraded to a felony.

There are a variety of factors that can impact the classification of your indecent exposure charges. These factors can include:

  • Details of the alleged offense
  • Previous criminal convictions of related offenses
  • Jurisdiction
  • State- or Federal-level enactments
  • Status as a felon
  • Criminal history
  • And more

It's important to understand that physical contact is not needed for an indecent exposure charge to be filed. However, if physical contact is made during the alleged offense, or the charges were 'aggravated', what would have been a basic misdemeanor charge can turn into serious felonious charges.

This means you may be charged with a felony on the state or federal level. These types of felony charges can include sexual assault and aggravated sexual battery. Convictions for these upgraded charges will carry even larger fines and longer periods of mandatory incarceration on a state or federal level.

Potential Penalties Following an Indecent Exposure Conviction

The consequences of an indecent exposure conviction can potentially have a lasting effect on your reputation, career, and family. An indecent exposure conviction is punishable by significant fines and/or short- and long-term incarceration sentences.

The minimum length of mandatory confinement following a conviction will vary. This can be affected by the severity and classification of charges and individual state or federal mandates.

The penalties for a conviction will also vary depending on the number of previous convictions of related offenses. Mandatory penalties will vary from state to state. However, the general standards for first-time and repeat offenders are as follows:

  • First Conviction – Typically a misdemeanor which can include significant fines, community service, and/or a short-term jail sentence.
  • Second Conviction – Significantly larger fines and automatic upgrade to felony charges which can carry a long-term prison sentence.
  • Third Conviction – A third conviction may violate the Three Strikes Law, which carries a mandatory life imprisonment sentence.

Can an Employer Be Held Liable for an Employee's Indecent Exposure Offense?

In most cases, if the offense occurred during the course of employment, the employer may be found civilly liable for the employee's indecent exposure offense. Employers bear the responsibility of taking all necessary and reasonable steps to prevent any events of indecent exposure and sexual harassment to or by their employees.

Cases involving acts of indecent exposure or sexual harassment most commonly occur during company-sponsored functions. This includes events like office parties and corporate weekend retreats. Often times, the likelihood of an indecent exposure offense occurring increase during company-sponsored events where alcohol is being served.

Additional Consequences of an Indecent Exposure Conviction

The impacts of an indecent exposure conviction can carry on throughout your lifetime. In many states, certain types of sex crime convictions will require offenders to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, also known as SORNA.

As part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, SORNA provides a set of comprehensive minimum standards for offender registration and notification in all 50 states.

The impacts of being a registered sex offender can affect daily life in a variety of ways. This can include:

  • May be prohibited from living within a certain distance from schools, daycares, parks, or other locations where children gather regularly.
  • Loss of professional licenses including CDL endorsements
  • Difficulty finding or keeping sustainable employment
  • Damaged reputation among friends, neighbors, co-workers, social acquaintances, and community
  • Travel restrictions
  • And more

Failure to register as a sex offender violates the terms of SORNA and is considered a separate, more serious criminal offense. Registration violations can result in an automatic federal-level conviction which can impose confinement in the federal prison system for up to 10 years.

What is Megan's Law?

Megan's Law was first enacted in New Jersey in 1994 following a high-profile case involving the rape and murder of a 7-year-old by a sex offender with multiple convictions of sex crimes against small children. These laws were designed to alert parents about the presence of potentially dangerous predators convicted of sex crimes against children who are living and working in their community.

Megan's Law required convicted perpetrators to register as a sex offender and that a public notice of the offender's presence be issued to residents in the same community. Since the mid-1990's, similar laws have been adopted by all 50 states, as well as, DC.

Sex Offender Registration Requirements

Sex offender registration must be completed immediately following release from imprisonment. Registration should take place with the local law enforcement agency in the city or town of residence. During registration, offenders are required to provide information that can/will include:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Address of Primary Residence
  • All Known Associated Addresses
  • Current Photograph
  • Details of Offense and Conviction
  • Fingerprints
  • Sample of DNA
  • And More

Typically, offenders must complete the registration process with local law enforcement each year, or more often in some cases. All information must be kept current and any changes in employment status or residence must be immediately reported.

Some of the information provided by the court or offender may be publically posted in and around the offender's community and/or included on the state's sex offender online registry.

The state's online registry may provide users with some, but not all, of the offender's information. Information provided publicly may include:

  • Name and all known aliases
  • Date of birth
  • Current address
  • Offenses including laws violated
  • Dates of offenses
  • Current photo and physical description
  • And more

The U.S. Department of Justice maintains the National Sex Offender Public Website, also known as the NSOPW. This website provides access to the public sex offenders registries for all 50 states. Users can search for registered sex offenders by name, zip code, city, county, and more.

It's important to work with a skilled sex crimes attorney to better understand the specific registration requirements for sex offenders in your jurisdiction. They can also help to ensure you are continually meeting the required reporting obligations of your jurisdiction.

How Are Indecent Exposure Charges Proved?

The prosecution will bear the responsibility of proving guilt during an indecent exposure case. While specific evidentiary responsibility will vary between jurisdictions, there are a few general facts they must prove.

  • Willful Exposure – It must be proven that the offense was committed intentionally while near or with another person or persons whether known or unknown to the offender.
  • Bare Nudity – It must be proven that the offender's bare genitals were exposed during the offense as opposed to exposing subsequent layers of clothing or underwear.
  • Intent – It must be proven that the offense was committed with the intent to draw direct attention from the public to the genital area. In addition, it must be proven the exposure was committed for sexual arousal or gratification from the knowledge that witnesses may be offended or alarmed.

What Should You Do if You are Falsely Accused of Indecent Exposure?

First and foremost, it's important to contact an experienced sex crime attorney to handle your case and develop a strong defense strategy. An indecent exposure conviction carries serious consequences with effects that can be felt throughout a lifetime.

In addition, it's important to gather any evidence that may help prove your innocence. This evidence can include:

  • Voicemails
  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • And more

It's also imperative that you refrain from any contact whatsoever with the individual who has accused you of committing indecent exposure. Allowing contact with your accuser may negatively impact your defense strategy and further hinder your indecent exposure case.

Why Choose a Sex Crimes Attorney?

Proving innocence when faced with an indecent exposure charge is a complicated process, so choosing the right attorney who can handle the specifics of your case is essential to your success. If you have been charged with indecent exposure, it's important to contact an experienced lawyer at Sex Crimes Attorney as soon as possible to begin building your defense. We can be reached at 888-666-8480.

Work with one of our attorneys who have in-depth knowledge and extensive experience handling indecent exposure and other criminal charges with a sexual nature further increases your chances of a successful defense strategy.