Indecent exposure is a crime in every state in the U.S. Indecent exposure is the intentional display of one’s private parts in public, causing offense or shock to others. The crime entices a sexual response as it is committed for sexual gratification. To expose genitals involves showing bare genitals. However, flashing one’s underwear despite it being skimpy or revealing is not considered indecent exposure. The exposure does not involve touching someone.
Indecent Exposure Laws
Each state has different laws in regards to indecent exposure. For instance, in some states, being naked in front of someone who is not a spouse is considered indecent exposure. In other states revealing genitals in front of another person or group of people is deemed to be indecent exposure.
In Alabama, it is an offense for one to expose their private parts to arouse him or others. The state of West Virginia defines indecent exposure as purposely displaying one’s private parts involving explicit sexual acts. Montana defines indecent exposure as intentional exposure of genitals to harass, degrade, gratify, humiliate, and abuse others.
In most states, breastfeeding is exempted from the indecent exposure laws. This enables mothers to breastfeed their children in public with or without revealing their breasts. New York does not allow breastfeeding for entertainment, show, or play.
Indecent exposure is not a serious crime, and offenders will often be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. However, if the person they exposed themselves to was underage or if any physical contact occurred, it will be charged as a felony.
Indecent Exposure Crimes and Charges
For prosecutors to secure a conviction for indecent exposure, they must prove to a court that the existence of elements of the crime is beyond a reasonable doubt. Elements of indecent exposure include:
• Proof that private body parts were displayed. Private parts include breasts, buttocks, and genitals.
• Proof exposure was willful, meaning the offender planned to show their private parts.
• Exposure must be in a public place, whether publicly or privately owned.
• Exposure in the presence of another person. In some states, it needs to be a person of the opposite gender.
Indecent Exposure Penalties
A first-time conviction for indecent exposure is charged as a misdemeanor with small fines or short local jail sentences. However, with a repeat offender, the indecent exposure will be charged as a felony. Penalties for felony indecent exposure include:
• Incarceration. Sentences may involve time in county jail or state prison, depending on the state. Offenders usually serve the entire sentence in prison.
• Fines. Judges will impose fines to punish offenders. Fines vary depending on the circumstances but typically range from $ 1,000-$20,000.
• Probation. An individual on probation maintains employment, frequently meets a probation officer, and attends counseling.
• Community service. A judge will often include this on the probation terms. The offender will be required to volunteer for a stated number of hours with an organization approved by the court.
Sexual offender registry. In some states, people who have been convicted for indecent exposure are put on the sex offender’s list.
Indecent Exposure Sentencing Guidelines
Sentencing procedures for indecent exposure vary from state to state. It has to be proved that the offender engaged in a purposefully irresponsible manner. Proving the deliberate element is usually hard. The state of mind of the offender also plays a significant role in sentencing indecent exposure. Irresponsible element is essential, especially if the exposure was done in front of youngsters.
The following defenses are commonly raised by defense attorneys of those charged with indecent exposure:
• The offender will argue they had the consent of the viewer. However, if the defendant had the viewer’s consent, but exposure occurs in the presence of a third person who didn’t consent, they can be convicted.
• Commercial nude dancing. Some states in the United States permit nude dancing.
• Lack of sexual motivation. For indecent exposure to be sentenced in some states, the defendant should have sexual motivation. Under this statute, a person who urinates in public will not be convicted for indecent exposure.
• Lack of intent to expose to others. For instance, a defendant who was dressing in a bathroom without knowing the curtains were open won’t be found guilty of indecent exposure.
Indecent Exposure Statute of Limitations
Indecent exposure is a less serious crime in most states has a three-year statute of limitations. This means the prosecution has three years from the date of the crime to file criminal charges against the offender. However, this will vary if a child was involved in the indecent exposure. Indecent exposure statutes of limitations are delayed if the offender leaves the state or country.