Sometimes, your liberty to carry on with normal activities like changing at the beach may get cut short by the fear of allegations to do with indecent exposure. In today’s environment, you may find yourself caught in criminal charges because of an accidental or unintentional case that leads to the disclosure of your genitals in public. While your intentions may be innocent, facing charges of indecent exposure may attract severe penalties that may include serving time in jail or paying hefty fines. Additionally, the offense warrants detrimental consequences, making it mandatory for you to register as a sex offender. Consequently, your career opportunities may be cut short after facing a conviction for indecent exposure.
Regardless of the possible outcomes, you may be subjected to, we recommend seeking a criminal defense attorney’s services to help you with your case. Working with a lawyer from the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm will increase the chances of a better court outcome for your case significantly. Over the years, we have helped out clients in Orange County, California, to successfully defend their criminal cases, leading to an acquittal or a reduction of penalties.
Understanding the Crime of Indecent Exposure
Different people have varying levels of what they consider indecent. For some, indecency may involve wearing revealing clothes, while for others, it may include full nudity. The California Penal Code provides a universal definition of indecent exposure that is applicable in court when handling a case with such facts in play. PC 314 defines the offense of indecent exposure as exposing your bare genitals intentionally to other people, knowing that the disclosure may sexually offend them. Moreover, some people engage in indecent exposure to seek sexual gratification or to try and arouse others around them.
To add to this, some behavior that you engage in with your significant other may amount to indecent exposure, especially if you are out in public. For example, if your boyfriend exposes his genitals to you for arousal in a public place, anyone who witnesses the act can report him for indecent exposure. Thus, you may get in trouble for a failure to take into account other people’s presence even if you direct your actions to a specific person.
The Elements of Indecent Exposure that The Prosecutor Must Prove
Similar to all criminal offenses, there are specific details related to the offense of indecent exposure that the prosecution must prove successfully during court proceedings before you can face a conviction. The elements of the crime must relate to your actions directly, meaning that the prosecutor has limited options but to gather evidence of engaging in the actual illegal activity. The details of indecent exposure often revolve around lewd intentions and an aim to offend others. However, these are not the only details that the prosecutor will be keen to prove in court. He/she needs to convince the judge of all necessary information before you can receive any penalties for your actions.
The prosecutor must prove that:
You Exposed Your Genitals On Purpose
The first thing that the prosecutor should demonstrate is that you willfully exposed your genitals, and not out of coercion or by accident. The prosecution will analyze the circumstances of your case to conclude that your actions indicate a purposeful exposure of genitals with an underlying intention. For example, if there is evidence showing you unzipping your pants and pulling down your underwear, it is difficult to argue that you did not expose yourself on purpose, primarily because you were aware of what your actions led to. Additionally, proving that you acted willfully requires the prosecutor to introduce additional information regarding where you chose to commit the offense. If you waited until people passed near you and decided to expose your genitals at that specific period, your actions might also point to a willful act.
However, specific scenarios do not qualify to demonstrate that a defendant acted willfully. If your garments fall off by accident, the prosecutor cannot apply the argument because you could not reasonably foresee that your genitals would be exposed. For example, if you are wearing a loose-fitting swimsuit that happens to fall off and expose you, there is no offense committed, as long as your defense attorney can prove that the accident was genuine.
Moreover, the prosecutor is limited to raising a case for the indecent exposure of genitals only. In this case, the only exposure you may face charges for is when your bare genitals are visible to other people. Therefore, exposing your breasts in public cannot lead to indecent exposure, even though breasts generally fall under the classification of private body parts. The rationale used is that revealing breasts does not fall into the statutory rules that define the offense. Similarly, wearing revealing underwear also falls outside the requirements of indecent exposure regardless of how revealing the underwear may be. Thus, the emphasis is on the term bare, meaning that for the prosecutor to prove that you committed the offense, you must have fully exposed your genitals, without underwear.
You Exposed Yourself In the Presence of Someone Likely to Take Offense
The act of revealing your genitals alone cannot warrant you to face charges for indecent exposure. You must commit the offense in the presence of other people who are likely to get offended by your actions. Here, the prosecutor must demonstrate that you chose to engage in indecent exposure in front of passers-by or people gathered in an area, by approaching them or waiting for them to walk by you. Often, the prosecutor may call on a witness to give a testimony that affirms your actions. However, the witness should be someone who saw you engage in the specific activities, and not merely someone who heard of the incident from a distance.
On top of this, the prosecutor should also prove that you chose to expose yourself, knowing that people could easily get offended by your actions. Typically, most people would take offense to anyone showing their private parts in public, especially if they have younger children in their care at the time of the exposure. Thus, details that may indicate an exclusive choice of the type of place and area where you decided to expose your genitals will serve as evidence in court to justify the prosecution’s claims of your illegal actions. For example, the prosecutor knows that revealing genitals in a nude beach would not amount to indecent exposure. Consequently, your actions must fall within an area where such activities are unconventional, like a public street, a restaurant, or other public service areas like supermarkets.
You also need to note that the prosecutor does not need to prove that the people who witnessed your actions were offended, only that your actions could lead to such a reaction. All the prosecutor needs to show for such a claim to suffice is that a reasonable person would take offense to your actions based on where you decided to reveal your privates. Hence, even if witnesses did not react negatively to your exposure, the prosecutor can make a successful conviction if a reasonable man test shows that any other person apart from the current witnesses would respond negatively to your actions.
Lastly, since this element of indecent exposure requires you to commit the offense in front of someone else, the prosecutor may find it challenging to prove that any actions you did in a secluded area amount to indecent exposure. For example, if you were inside your vehicle or in a bush with your partner when the indecent exposure occurred, anyone who happened to see you as he/she walked by does not have a strong claim against you. The disparity occurs because your efforts to be in a secluded place may mean that you did not intend for a third party to see you. Nevertheless, the prosecutor can still use such information against you, especially if you knew that an innocent person was oncoming and continued to expose yourself.
You Intended to Draw Attention to Your Genitals
An additional element for the prosecutor to prove is that you wanted to draw attention to your genitals. Consequently, some details of your actions may be pivotal to the prosecutor’s claims to show an express intention to attract attention to the genitals. For example, if you reveal your privates and then proceed to touch them in a lewd manner, it is enough for the prosecutor to conclude that you were drawing attention to yourself.
Moreover, when you stand in a strategic position where anyone passing by is sure to see your genitals, it could work to the prosecutor’s advantage as he/she demonstrates an express intention to draw attention to your genitals. The way you expose yourself also leaves essential information for the prosecutor to pick up on. Therefore if you choose to strip from the waist down only or open up your zip to expose the genitals exclusively, it is an indication of your intentions to emphasize attention to your genitals.
On the contrary, if you decided to get completely naked, for example, you could argue that your intentions were not to attract attention to your genitals since your whole body was exposed. Therefore, you need to work with your defense attorney to learn of the critical details that a prosecutor picks upon to prove that you are guilty of indecent exposure.
The Indecent Exposure Was For Sexual Offense or Arousal
Sometimes, you may be compelled to expose your private parts out of an emergency. For example, if you spill a hot drink around your groin, an immediate response may be to take off your garments, leading to indecent exposure. In such a case, it may not be fair for the prosecutor to charge you with the offense, mainly because you did not intend to offend anyone sexually or try to arouse yourself or others around you.
Conversely, some actions you undertake during your unlawful revealing of genitals to the public will lead to an immediate response to those around you. The prosecutor will look out for any actions you undertook when trying to arouse yourself or others in public. If you masturbated or exhibited other sexual activity in public after exposing your genitals, it will lead to the conclusion of seeking sexual gratification and offending others by engaging in the lewd behavior. Consequently, the prosecutor may succeed in proving your indecent intentions when exposing your genitals to others.
Penalties for the Crime of Indecent Exposure
In California, the offense of indecent exposure is a wobbler crime. Consequently, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on several factors of the case.
Anyone who commits the offense as a first time offender automatically faces misdemeanor charges. The penalties for the misdemeanor offense may attract up to six months in county jail. Additionally, you may have to pay a fine of not more than $1,000. Lastly, you must register as a sex offender upon conviction of the crime, with a minimum requirement of a ten-year sex offender record.
Alternatively, you may face felony penalties if your case has more aggravating factors. The punishment involves up to three years in state prison. However, the judge may enhance or decrease the sentence depending on the defenses you raise, as well as the circumstances surrounding your case. Also, the judge may order you to pay a fine of up to $10,000 for the crime. You will also have to register as a sex offender for a minimum period of ten years.
It is important to note that a failure to register as a sex offender as directed under section 293 of the penal code warrants additional punishments. A defiance of the set registration requirements amounts to a felony that may attract a sentence of one to three years in prison. Thus, a defendant should be keen to follow the instructions given, or risk facing additional jail time to register as a sex offender promptly.
Aggravating Factors to the Crime of Indecent Exposure
The determinant factor of whether you will face felony or misdemeanor charges depends on the presence of aggravating factors in your case. Such factors usually add on to your legal repercussions, mainly because they involve additional illegalities that add on to the offense of indecent exposure. The main factors that aggravate your case are:
Having a Previous Sex Crime Conviction
If you are a repeat offender who has engaged in previous sex crimes like engaging in lewd conduct in public, indecent exposure, or any other related crimes, you are likely to face a felony charge instead of a misdemeanor. Moreover, the judge will enhance your sentence accordingly to try and deter you from such behaviors in the future. Facing such additional penalties also serve as a punitive move to ensure that you face retribution for your actions.
Engaging in Indecent Exposure in a Private Dwelling
When you go out of your way to break into another person’s home, building, or trailer, you commit an additional offense that involves an invasion of private property. Therefore, entering a person’s home and proceeding to expose your genitals indecently will attract more severe penalties, depending on the facts of the case. For example, if you cause damage like breaking the door as you entered, you will have to pay extra fines to compensate for the aggrieved person’s loss. Moreover, the judge may decide to issue punishment for the offense of entering someone’s home without persimmon and engaging in indecent exposure concurrently. Consequently, you may serve a longer prison sentence or pay more substantial fines.
Defenses for the Offense of Indecent Exposure
The crime of indecent exposure places many innocent parties in an awkward position, where they have to face charges in court for an action they did not commit intentionally. Your criminal defense attorney’s task is to listen to the facts of the case and derive possible defenses from presenting in court. As a defendant, you need to work closely with your attorney to ensure that you provide all the necessary information that he/she needs to prepare persuasive defenses. The possible arguments for the offense of indecent exposure include:
Lack of Adequate Evidence
One of the best ways to raise defense is to counter the prosecutor’s claims directly. In doing so, you will have the advantage of questioning his/her arguments, leaving room for reasonable doubt. Consequently, it will be difficult for the prosecutor to make a convincing claim if your lawyer challenges the evidence or lack thereof in court. In some cases, the prosecutor may claim that you had lewd intentions when the exposure of genitals occurred by accident. Thus, your lawyer must question the prosecutor’s claims by offering several credible options to suit your defense. For example, your criminal defense lawyer can request for the methods used by the prosecution in concluding that your intentions involved sexual arousal while offering evidence to prove the contrary.
Moreover, the defense of insufficient evidence is ideal if you were in a secluded area. If you exposed your genitals inside your vehicle, the prosecutor would lack sufficient evidence to prove that you intended to offend anyone else, mainly because you tried to create a private environment. Hence, it is not enough for someone to pass by and see exposing your genitals in this case. The prosecutor still has to show that you intended to draw attention to yourself and tried to expose yourself in front of others. Since he/she cannot directly point out such evidence, your lawyer can succeed in raising the prosecutor’s defense.
Lastly, it is unreasonable for the prosecutor to impose the charges against you, especially if he/she cannot fully expose your genitals. While the prosecutor may overlook such details, your lawyer can question the means of determining that your garments were out of the way and that you had fully exposed yourself. If the prosecutor fails to produce substantial evidence to back up his/her claims, your defense will work well.
You Are Facing False Accusations
Sometimes, reporters of an incident may go overboard when giving information concerning your illegal activities, including making exaggerations or flat out lying about what happened. Such false allegations are driven by malicious intent from someone who may be out to set you up. Speaking to your defense lawyer will help you come up with several factors to present in court as a defense if you are sure of the falsehood of the claims filed against you.
For example, if you happened to simply adjust your clothes in public by tucking your hand inside the front part of your garments, false information concerning indecent exposure may arise and warrant your arraignment in court to face the charges. However, it is relatively easy to fight off such allegations, especially if surveillance footage is available to prove that you engaged in innocent activities that did not expose your genitals indecently.
Moreover, if you have any persuasive evidence against a witness who agrees to give false testimony, your lawyer can raise the findings in court and request for further investigations of such a witness. In doing so, you will have built a valid reason to doubt the prosecutor’s evidence. Consequently, you will not face a conviction until the resolution of the issue. Also, in the best-case scenario, you are likely to succeed in pointing out that the witness gave false testimony.
Mistake of Identity
Some cases also lead to a defendant facing charges for an offense that he/she did not commit, owing to mistaken identity. The occurrence is common in cases where indecent exposure occurred at night or in an area where there was inadequate lighting, such that it was difficult to identify the suspect. Nevertheless, in such cases, the investigators and the prosecutor often arrest an innocent party simply because he/she resembles the offender.
Additionally, the mistake of identity may occur when the person commits the offense does so amid a large crowd and manages to escape just after someone raises the alarm. Subsequently, people may immediately assume that you were the suspect in question and hand you over to the authorities if you happened to be close to such a person.
In raising the defense, you should try to bring out crucial details that the prosecutor may have missed to distinguish yourself from the actual offender. Your criminal defense attorney can offer several options depending on the circumstances of your case.
Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me
It is not uncommon to face charges for an offense you did not intend to commit or did not partake in. The crime of indecent exposure is one of the sex crimes that may attract severe consequences to your private and professional life, on top of facing severe legal penalties. Thus, you need to find a competent lawyer to expeditiously handle the matter to ensure that you do not meet any unfair conviction. We at the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm purpose to provide quality legal services to all our clients in Orange County. Moreover, we endeavor to create a lasting relationship with you to guide you through any future venture beyond your court process. Call us today at 714-740-7848.