Indecent Exposure Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
The offense of indecent exposure does not appear to be complex. But an examination of the law in California making it a crime shows that it is not as simple as it might at first seem. In addition, the consequences of an indecent exposure conviction can be extremely serious and could follow you for many years after a conviction. The first step in understanding the law is to define the term: What is “indecent exposure,” and what are the consequences if you are convicted?
Indecent Exposure: Definition and Consequences
Indecent exposure is defined in PC 314. While the section is relatively brief, it can be confusing. Briefly, the law says that it is a misdemeanor to:
- Expose your genitals (or assists another in doing so),
- In a public place or anywhere people are present who may be “offended or annoyed,” and
- Your act was willful, in that it was done for the purpose of offending others sexually, or of sexually exciting either yourself or those present.
If the act of indecent exposure occurs in an inhabited home, or in the inhabited portion of any building, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. And for a second or subsequent conviction under PC 314, or after a conviction under PC 288 (lewd acts with a child), the offense is a felony.
Finally, a conviction under PC 314 for indecent exposure will lead to the requirement that you register as a sex offender for at least 10 years.
Examples of Possible Indecent Exposure Charges
The definition of indecent exposure appears simple in the statute. In practice, however, the issue can become clouded. Here are some examples:
- Public urination. Let us assume a person urinates outside, in an area where others are present and able to view the scene. Most people would agree that the basic elements of the offense will likely be satisfied. But what if the act took place behind a building, shielded from most areas by trees or bushes, that is, an area in which the person would reasonably assume that they would not be seen by others. At the very least, this creates a grey area in terms of the satisfaction of the elements of the statute.
- Public breastfeeding. There was a time when breast feeding in public might have been considered indecent exposure. At the present time, however, every state in the country (along with Washington, D.C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) has laws specifically exempting breastfeeding from laws relating to public indecency.
- Nudity on a public beach. While some may consider this a healthy activity, there is little doubt that it will be considered indecent exposure, except, perhaps, in specifically dedicated locations.
Note that the specific facts of a case are important. For instance, if the charge is based on public urination, the defendant may assert that he simply had to urinate, and did so in an ally, although others were present. Without more, you would think the defendant would have a good defense to the charge. But add testimony by someone who witnessed the event, and who states that the defendant had an erection, and it could definitely alter the likely result in the case.
Defenses to Indecent Exposure Charges
As in all criminal cases, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In an indecent exposure case, the elements include intent (on the part of the defendant) and the issue of whether a reasonable person would be offended by the act. Here are some examples of how these issues would arise:
- Lack of intent. The above example concerning urinating in what appears to be a hidden area supports the argument that there was no intent to offend or sexually excite anyone.
- Lack of willfulness. A woman is walking in the park. A gust of wind blows her skirt and exposes her genital area. There is no crime, as the exposure was the result of natural forces.
- Lack of exposure. Walking around in your underwear may be socially unacceptable, but it will not constitute indecent exposure since your private parts are not visible.
There are obviously other situations in which “public” nudity is not necessarily a crime. In fact, the statute specifically exempts from the law otherwise legal nudity occurring, for example, in a theater performance.
Los Angeles Indecent Exposure Lawyer
As we noted at the outset, the California indecent exposure law is short and appears at first glance to be relatively straightforward. But if you are facing an indecent exposure charge, there are exceptions, interpretations and issues of intent that could have a significant impact on the result in your case.
At CBS Law, we have experience defending clients in sex crimes cases. We understand the laws and the potential defenses. If you have been charged with indecent exposure or another sex crime, call us for a free consultation at (213) 800-8005
“Being accused of indecent exposure can be overwhelming. I will do everything in my power to get you the best possible outcome.”
Christopher J. Bou Saeed Founding Attorney of CBS Law