Although it may not seem a severe offense like other types of sex crimes, a charge of indecent exposure can result in lifelong consequences, affecting your reputation and employability. Understanding state laws on indecent exposure and related offenses are critical when facing allegations of this type of sex crime, which is why you should have an experienced defense lawyer on your side.
If you face charges of indecent exposure in Pasadena, skilled and aggressive attorneys at The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley are here for you. Our attorneys know how prosecutors and judges handle these cases in California courts. We can help you build your defense strategies carefully to increase your exoneration chances or reduce the charges to a less severe offense.
Understanding Indecent Exposure Offense Under California Law
According to Penal Code 314 PC, it is a crime to purposely expose your genitals or naked body in a public place, causing others to be offended or alarmed. While the motive or intentions of doing this vary from person to person, most people commit indecent exposure for sexual gratification or to entice a sexual response.
Most people assume an indecent exposure offense can only happen in a public place, but that is untrue. Typically, you would be guilty of the violation of Penal Code 314 PC in just about any environment you decide to display your genitals wilfully with intent to annoy or entice a sexual response from another person.
Indecent exposure laws are broad and vague, covering some behaviors you might not even have thought were unlawful. Circumstances leading to indecent exposure arrest are surprising sometimes, and you might feel like the police are violating your rights.
Interestingly, despite the many changes in the definition of "indecent" in modern society, indecent exposure laws are still the same since their enactment many years ago. Below are a few examples of conduct that can count as indecent exposure under Penal Code 314 PC:
- A teenage boy exposing his genitals to a group of people coming out of the church with the intent of annoying them
- A lady displaying her breasts in a crowded hotel with the intent to sexually satisfy her fiancé
- An adult male standing or seated somewhere in the street exposing his penis to ladies who are passing by to annoy them or for sexual satisfaction purposes.
While displaying a bare female breast can lead to indecent exposure charges, there is an exception to this if the woman was breastfeeding her baby. People often wonder if urinating in a public place is similar to indecent exposure, but it depends on your unique situation.
If you were urinating behind a tree or bush away from direct view of the public, you might be able to argue that relieving yourself at that time didn't result in indecent exposure of your genitals. In that kind of situation, it is not unlawful because you did not do so with the intent to entice a sexual response or annoy anyone.
Under any circumstances, you should never undermine an indecent exposure charge because it can also lead to other charges. For instance, touching another person accidentally while exposing your genitals can lead to sexual assault charges with more severe consequences.
It is vital to retain the services of an attorney who regularly practices this specific area of law when you face allegations or charges of indecent exposure as soon as possible. An attorney can assess and evaluate the prosecutor's case against you to find loopholes for developing a viable legal defense to counter these charges.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove for a Conviction Following an Indecent Exposure Charge
To prove you guilty of the violation of California Penal Code 314 PC, the prosecutor must demonstrate to a judge, beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of the following elements of the crime:
Exposure of Your Naked Body or Private Parts
When a prosecutor uses the term "private parts" or "naked body" during the trial, he/she refers to your genitals, including buttocks, or breasts. Exposure of your genitals is the first component of this offense that the prosecutor must prove to the judge during the trial to convince him/her you are guilty of the alleged charge.
You do not commit this offense if you expose your underwear regardless of how skimpy or revealing it appears.
The Exposure Was Wilful
Secondly, to convince the judge you are guilty of the offense, the prosecutor must prove that your private parts or genitals' exposure were willful or intentional. Accidental exposure of your private parts is not unlawful. For instance, if you are swimming and accidentally the water's force causes your breasts or buttocks' exposure, the court will not consider this unlawful.
The Exposure Was in a Public Place
Exposure of your genitals in places that are accessible or visible by the general public, for example, stores, parks, or restaurants, qualifies as indecent exposure. For the sake of this statute, even if you were in a private home, you could be guilty of this offense if another person outside the home saw your genitals.
The Exposure of Your Genitals Was in the Presence of Another
If you were in a secluded place behind some bushes where you didn't believe that someone would see your private parts, it is possible to argue that you didn't have the motive to annoy someone or entice a sexual reaction.
The prosecutor must satisfy all the above elements of the crime to prove you guilty of violating indecent exposure laws. An experienced defense attorney can find a weakness in the prosecutor's case using his/her evidence to convince the judge you are innocent of the alleged offense.
A first-time charge of indecent exposure is a misdemeanor, but a second offense can result in a felony charge with more severe consequences. Whether it is your first-time offense or not, it is wise to speak to a reputable attorney serving your area of residence as soon as you can for adequate legal representation throughout the case.
Potential Consequences Resulting from an Indecent Exposure Conviction
The potential consequences following a conviction of the violation of California Penal Code 314 PC might have a lasting impact on your career, reputation, and even family. A conviction for this type of sex crime is punishable by long-term imprisonment sentences and hefty fines.
The minimum imprisonment time following a conviction for this offense will vary, depending on individual case circumstances and classification of his/her charges. Your previous convictions for indecent exposure and other aggravating factors surrounding your current charge will also have a significant impact on the severity of penalties you are likely to face.
The general standards for punishing an individual guilty of this charge will depend on the classification of his/her charge. For instance, here are potential consequences for different classifications of an indecent exposure charge:
Misdemeanour Indecent Exposure Charge
According to Penal Code 314, a defendant is likely to face a misdemeanor charge if it is his/her first-time offense. Misdemeanour indecent exposure is also known as "simple" exposure and is punishable by:
- A maximum of six months incarceration
- A maximum fine of $1,000, and
- A minimum of 10 years sex offender registration legal obligation, according to Penal Code 290 PC
Felony Indecent Exposure Charge
If you have a conviction for this offense in your criminal record, your subsequent or second offense will result in a felony charge, which carries more severe consequences. A felony charge of the violation of Penal Code 314 is punishable by:
- A fine amounting up to $10,000
- Incarceration in the state prison for either 16 months, two years, or three years
- Registration as a sex offender obligation for a minimum period of 10 years
Aggravated Indecent Exposure Charge
You will face aggravated indecent exposure charges if you expose your genitals or private parts in an inhabited building, home or trailer after entering the place without the owner's consent or permission.
Depending on your unique case facts and criminal history, the prosecutor can file an aggravated indecent exposure charge as either a felony or misdemeanor because it is a "wobbler" offense. An aggravated indecent exposure conviction as a misdemeanor can make you subject to a maximum of one year of incarceration.
However, when the prosecutor files your case as a felony aggravated indecent exposure, the penalties you will face if the court finds you guilty are similar to those of a felony indecent exposure charge.
Indecent Exposure Conviction and Inclusion in the Sex Offender Registry
As mentioned above, a conviction for a sex crime like indecent exposure comes with a minimum of ten years of sex offender registration obligations to those guilty of the charge. Inclusion in the sex offender registry is mandatory regardless of whether you are guilty of indecent exposure as a felony or misdemeanor.
Knowingly and willfully ignoring your registration duties as a sex offender is a separate and more serious offense, which is punishable under Penal Code 290(b). The severity of failing to comply with this registration requirement will depend on whether your underlying indecent exposure conviction was a felony or misdemeanor.
Typically, the consequences of failing to register as a sex offender can make you subject to a maximum of one-year confinement in the county jail (for a misdemeanor) or a maximum of three years confinement in the state prison (for a felony).
Inclusion in the sex offender registry because of the violation of indecent exposure laws under Penal Code 314 PC can impact your daily life in various ways, for example:
- Loss of your professional license, especially if you are a medical expert like a dentist or a nurse.
- Limitation on places you can live. For instance, you cannot live at a location near a park, daycares, schools, or any other location where children assemble regularly.
- There are travel restrictions because you must inform the law enforcement officers about your traveling intentions for adjustment of your information in the national sex offender registry.
- It will be difficult for you to find or keep sustainable employment.
- It will affect your reputation and relationships among your family, acquaintances, co-workers, and the community at large.
As you can see, just like any other sex crime, consequences resulting from an indecent exposure conviction are severe and life-long. Although initially, it may not seem like a serious offense when a person accuses you of indecent exposure, it is vital to seek legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can.
An experienced and well-informed criminal defense attorney can establish strong legal facts favorable to your case for dismissal of the charge or an alternative related charge with less severe consequences.
Legal Defense Strategies to Counter Indecent Exposure Charges
Discussed below are some of the most common and effective legal defense strategies that most attorneys use to counter indecent exposure charges against their client:
As mentioned earlier, if the prosecutor cannot prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be guilty of indecent exposure. For instance, if the prosecutor's evidence suggests that:
- You didn't act willfully or lewdly.
- The exposure of your genitals was partially clothed.
- There wasn't a person around to annoy or offend.
Then, you cannot be liable for violating indecent exposure laws under Penal Code 314 PC in that kind of situation.
Sometimes, a conviction for indecent exposure often requires little proof. Therefore, there is a possibility that a person acting out of anger or vengeful intentions can accuse you of the crime falsely.
A knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney understands the possibility of these kinds of allegations. Therefore, he/she can counter these charges against you by arguing that a false accusation was the cause of your arrest, meaning it was a wrongful arrest. If that is the case, you should not be guilty of violating indecent exposure laws under Penal Code 314 PC.
Mistaken identity is an issue that has led many people to prisons due to wrongful convictions. Depending on your unique case circumstances and facts, lawmakers acknowledge the possibility of mistaken identity in an indecent exposure charge.
A mistaken identity legal issue could arise when an eyewitness mistakenly identifies you as an offender of the alleged crime even if you weren't at the scene. A mistaken identification issue leading to your indecent exposure charge is possible if there were obstructions, hindering the eyewitness's clear visual of your nakedness, such as darkness.
Several reasons can cause mistaken identification in this kind of charge. However, it is upon your attorney to demonstrate to the jury that your arrest was due to mistaken identity.
Lack of Willful Intent
Because the prosecutor must prove that you had the intent to entice a sexual reaction or gratify yourself during the exposure of your genitals, your attorney can argue that the whole incident was accidental. If the exposure of your genitals was unintentional or was accidental, the court should not hold you guilty of the violation of Penal Code 314 PC.
For instance, the judge can view public urination as unintentional exposure if you were urinating somewhere away from the direct public view or behind a wall to prevent exposure of your genitals. However, it will take a legal expert with a combination of street-smarts and significant experience to prove to him/her beyond a reasonable doubt that your exposure of genitals was unintentional or accidental.
Consent Between Parties
Under Penal Code 314 PC, it is not unlawful to expose your genitals if the other party consents to the exposure. A common example of consent to the exposure of your genitals can happen if you are participating in commercial nude dancing in a club.
However, you could be guilty of the violation of Penal Code 314 PC if your genital exposure was in the presence of a third party who doesn't consent. If your attorney decides to use this strategy of legal defense in an indecent exposure charge, he/she must be able to prove that there was consent between both parties.
Lack of Sexual Enticement or Motivation
For conviction of an indecent exposure charge, the act of exposing your genitals must be sexually-motivated or to arouse sexual desires. Therefore, if you were naked in your bedroom, assuming the window is closed, and someone observes your genitals, it is reasonable to argue that your exposure was not sexually-motivated.
In this kind of situation, your attorney can also argue that the cause of the exposure of your genitals was a wardrobe malfunction, which means you didn't have any intent to entice a sexual desire.
Do not hesitate to contact a reliable criminal defense attorney once another person accuses you of indecent exposure because you are not guilty of the charge until the court's final verdict on the case. A reliable attorney can raise the above viable legal defense strategies during the case trial to counter these charges entirely or reduce the charges to a less severe alternative offense with less severe consequences.
Other Crimes Associated or Related to Indecent Exposure in California
Penal Code 314 PC, defining indecent exposure laws, is closely related to other California Penal Code crimes. They are known as "related" offenses because the prosecutor's evidence during these offense's trials is almost similar to an indecent exposure charge evidence.
Most prosecutors will charge you with an offense related to indecent exposure where there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of violating Penal Code 314 PC. That is why you need an attorney to fight for your best interests and legal rights throughout the case before the court's final verdict. Some of the offenses associated or related to an indecent exposure charge include:
Lewd Conduct in Public
The offense of lewd conduct in public is often chargeable in connection with indecent exposure. California Penal Code 647(a) makes it a criminal offense to touch yourself or another person in public with a sexual enticement motive or intentions. Under this statute, it is the "touching" that makes this offense different from an indecent exposure charge.
Under certain circumstances, the prosecutor could charge you with both crimes if you were exposing your genitals while touching another person without consent to do so. Violation of Penal Code 647(a) is a misdemeanor offense that can make you subject to incarceration for six months and a fine amounting up to $1,000.
According to Penal Code 602 PC, you commit a trespass offense when you enter another person's premises or home without the owner's consent, regardless of whether you intend to commit an offense once inside or not.
Trespass charges are likely to arise in connection with an aggravated indecent exposure charge if you were in another person's property or premises during the exposure. When the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to prove you guilty of aggravated indecent exposure, he/she can charge you with a trespass offense if you were on another person's property without permission.
Trespass is a less severe offense with less severe consequences than an indecent exposure charge. Most attorneys will advise you to take a plea to trespass in exchange for dismissal of your initial indecent exposure charges, which carries more severe and life-long consequences.
Lewd Conduct With a Minor
Often confused with the crime of "lewd conduct in public," the offense of lewd conduct with a minor is more severe, and it carries even harsher consequences than an indecent exposure charge. Penal Code 288 PC makes lewd conduct with a minor a "wobbler" offense, meaning it is chargeable as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on your case facts.
If the victim (minor) is less than fourteen years of age, the prosecutor will file your case as a felony, and it is punishable by a maximum of eight years of confinement in the state prison.
In conclusion, California law treats all sex crimes severely, and an indecent exposure charge is no exemption. Retaining a reliable attorney's services is the first helpful step you should take to protect your interests and legal rights throughout the case.
Find a Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
At The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley, we have an excellent understanding of court protocols and outstanding knowledge of the California justice system for sex crimes like indecent exposure.
If you face indecent exposure charges in Pasadena, California, our attorneys can analyze your case's facts to explore the possible defense strategies for the best possible outcome. Call us now at 626-793-4111 to schedule an obligation-free consultation with our understanding attorneys.