While indecent exposure sounds like a trivial matter, it is a severe crime in California with severe criminal implications. It attracts a lengthy prison time and a hefty penalty for those convicted. A criminal charge for the same will leave you anxious, confused, and afraid of what will happen to you next. The California justice system is complex and challenging to navigate without legal help. It is advisable to seek the assistance of a skilled criminal lawyer for guidance and help with fighting your charges.
If you or your loved one faces charges for indecent exposure in Anaheim, our team at California Criminal Lawyer Group will be there to offer the much-needed legal support. We have years of experience in fighting cases like these in courts. Thus, we could convince the judge to reduce or dismiss your charges.
Legal Understanding of California Indecent Exposure
The offense occurs when you expose your nakedness or private body parts in public for others to see. The act becomes a crime if others are angered or offended by the exposure. Indecent exposure is a misdemeanor in California. It is also among the severe sex crimes in the state, which carries a mandatory requirement for the offender to register in the sex offender registry.
The offense is under California Penal Code 314. The law specifically makes it a crime for a person to willingly and lewdly:
- Expose their nakedness or private parts in a public place or anywhere else where other people will be present and could be angered or offended by the act
- Procure, counsel, or assist another person in exposing their nakedness or private parts
The legal explanation of California indecent exposure has vital elements that the district attorney must prove in court for you to be guilty as charged. These elements are also called the facts of the crime, and they are:
- You willfully exposed your nakedness or genitals
- You did that in the sight of someone or people that could be angered or offended by the exposure
- You intended to direct the attention of the person or people to your private body parts for any of the following reasons:
- To sexually gratify yourself or another person
- To sexually offend another person
It is essential to look at these factors to understand their meaning and implications.
A Willful Exposure of Your Nakedness or Genitals
Indecent exposure occurs when you willfully expose your nakedness or genitals. A willful act means that you did so willingly or purposely. However, it does not mean you intend to hurt another person or violate the law. An accidental exposure will not satisfy the elements of this offense.
Example: While hurriedly walking home, Sally slips and falls on the pavement near a busy street. Since she is wearing a short dress, her nakedness is exposed. People stand to stare at her in disgust, many accusing her of indecent dressing. However, Sally is not guilty under California PC 314. What happened to her was not her willful doing but an accident.
Exposing Your Nakedness or Genitals
Exposing your nakedness means showing your nakedness. Exposing your private body parts means showing your bare private parts. You are not guilty of indecently exposing yourself if you:
- Reveal your underwear, regardless of how exposed it is
- Reveal your naked female breast, especially if you were breastfeeding
Exposing Yourself in Someone’s Presence
Indecent exposure becomes a crime if it happens in front of another person or people. Additionally, the person/people must be angered or offended by the act.
However, it is a challenge for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, indeed, another person or people were angered or offended by the exposure. The court will not call all the audience to the witness stand. Thus, the judge will only assume their reaction based on where the offense occurred.
Additionally, criminal lawyers quickly pick flaws in a prosecutor's case, primarily if the offense occurred in a secluded area. For instance, you could have been in a public park, but in a remote part like behind the bushes or buildings, where you did not think anyone was watching you. That will not count as indecent exposure if it does not satisfy other offense elements.
Example: Tommy is home alone. He is stuck in his bedroom all day watching movies. Out of boredom, he starts masturbating while facing his bedroom window. The curtains are not drawn, and his window overlooks a busy street. Passersby see him and are annoyed by his actions. They call the police.
Joe is guilty under California PC 314, even if he committed the offense in his bedroom. If the curtains were drawn, but the passersby still managed to see him, he would not be guilty. Drawn curtains could indicate his effort to keep the activity private.
Intending to Draw Attention to the Nakedness or Genitals
The prosecutor must also prove that you intended to draw the people’s attention to the naked body or exposed genitals. Exposing your private parts is not enough to support indecent exposure charges if the intention is lacking.
Example: Sammy enjoys visiting the park when there is little traffic. His favorite spot is at the farthest corner that not many people visit. When the sun is out, Sammy takes off all his clothes to enjoy some sun. He has done this a few times. But the other day, some people walked by and saw him naked. They were annoyed and even called the security guards on Sammy.
Sammy is not guilty of indecently exposing himself even though he exposed his nakedness in public. His intention was only to sunbathe and not show off his nudity or genitals to people walking by.
You can still face indecent exposure charges if you intentionally expose your genitals to draw people’s attention to the genitals, but no one sees them. It could be that the place was dark, and the supposed audience did not see what you were trying to show them, or the police arrived before anyone saw your exposed genitals.
For Sexual Gratification or Sexual Offense
Your actions must also be geared towards sexual gratification or sexually offending one or more people. If not, you will not be guilty of indecently exposing your nakedness, even though you willingly expose your body or genitals in a public place. California indecent exposure requires you to act with sexually motivated or lewd intent. It means that your actions must be:
- For sexually arousing or gratifying yourself
- For sexually arousing or gratifying another person
- For sexually offending the audience
For instance, when a male inmate undresses in front of a female guard, more likely than not, they do it intending to offend the guard sexually.
But young boys who pull down their pants on street corners to reveal their buttocks at passing cars are not guilty under this statute. Even though they annoy the drivers, it is usually not in a sexual way. Remember that indecent exposure must be done to gratify the offender or sexually offend another person.
The district attorney must satisfy all the elements of this offense for the court to find you guilty under this law. If they cannot prove one or more of the listed elements, the court will not hold you guilty of the charges.
Consequences of Conviction for Indecent Exposure
Indecent exposure is generally a misdemeanor offense in California. Most first offenders receive a misdemeanor charge, called a simple misdemeanor for indecent exposure. If you are found guilty of this, you will likely receive the following penalties:
- A maximum of six months in jail
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- A mandatory requirement to register in the sex offender registry for a minimum period of ten years, according to California PC 290
In the place of simple indecent exposure, you could face charges for aggravated indecent exposure. That could happen if you commit the act in:
- An occupied building, home, or trailer
- And you accessed the said building, home, or trailer without permission
Aggravated indecent exposure offense is a wobbler in California. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony based on the details of your case. If you receive a misdemeanor conviction for aggravated indecent exposure, you will likely receive the same punishment as a simple misdemeanor for indecent exposure. However, your jail time increases to a maximum of one year.
A felony sentence for aggravated indecent exposure is more severely punished. You could receive the following penalties upon conviction:
- Sixteen months, two or three years in prison
- Maximum fines of $10,000
- A mandatory requirement to register in the sex offender registry for a minimum of ten years
Repeat offenders automatically receive a felony charge for indecent exposure. If you have one or more criminal convictions for indecent exposure in your criminal record or are facing a first charge for indecent exposure but have a previous sentence for lewd or lascivious act with a child, you will automatically face a felony charge. You will likely receive the penalties listed above for aggravated felony indecent exposure.
California Sex Offender Registry
The punishment for indecent exposure in California is for the defendant to register in the sex offender registry for ten years. The provisions for the California sex offender registry are under California PC 290. The requirement applies, whether you face conviction for misdemeanor or felony indecent exposure.
The sex offender registry in California is publicly available. It means that anyone running a background check on you will find out about this requirement and can automatically know that you have a criminal conviction for a serious sex crime in your record.
Failing to comply with this requirement could result in additional criminal charges. It would be a felony offense if the need to register were due to a felony sentence and a misdemeanor offense if your registration requirement was due to a misdemeanor offense. Based on the underlying offense, a conviction for failing to register in the sex offender registry is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Note that you will likely receive additional penalties if you are a licensed professional and have been convicted of a sex crime that requires you to register in the sex offender registry. The additional penalties could include a suspension or revocation of your professional license. The additional penalties apply to professionals like doctors, dentists, nurses, and similar professionals. But, a conviction for misdemeanor indecent exposure is usually exempted from these other penalties.
It helps to retain a brilliant criminal lawyer if you are charged with indecent exposure in California. Your lawyer will fight your charges and safeguard your rights to avoid some of these extreme penalties.
How To Fight Charges for Indecent Exposure in Court
Fortunately for you, several legal defense strategies are there to fight your charges in court. Your aggressive criminal lawyer will use any means possible to cast some doubts in the prosecutor’s case to have your charges reduced or dismissed. They could also provide irrefutable evidence in your favor to convince the court of your innocence. Here are some of the strategies that could apply in your case.
It Was an Accident
Indecent exposure could happen by accident. It only becomes illegal if you willfully expose your nakedness or genitals in a public place. If you believe that the exposure occurred by accident, your lawyer can apply this strategy to cause the judge to drop your charges.
For instance, it could be that the wind blew off your dress, and you were not wearing anything underneath. Or, your trousers were caught up by the door, or an object by the road, ripping it apart and exposing your nakedness.
An accidental exposure will not satisfy all the elements of this offense. For instance, it will not have happened willfully, and maybe the people around were not annoyed but somewhat sympathetic. If that is the case, the court will allow you to walk free, with no further charges.
Evidence is paramount in proving criminal charges in court. California courts give police enough time to gather evidence that the prosecutor will use in court to support a defendant's charges. If the evidence is not enough, the judge will not sentence you to your charges.
Evidence gathered must satisfy all the elements of this offense. There must be evidence that you exposed your body or genitals in a public place to arouse or gratify yourself or someone else sexually. You did it intending to annoy or sexually offend the other person. The prosecutor must carefully go through each element, convincing the court how your actions satisfy all these elements.
But, the challenge prosecutors face is proving some elements, like a person’s intent, beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to prove your intentions at the time, your criminal lawyer could take advantage of that to cause the court to dismiss or reduce your charges.
It is common for a person to face false accusations for an offense they have no clue about. People accuse others falsely, sometimes out of jealousy or desire revenge. The police are usually not around and rely on another’s word to make an arrest.
In California, false accusations are common with sex crimes. Sex charges often call for minimal evidence since they are usually based on allegations. It makes it easier for a person acting in anger or jealousy to accuse another of an offense that they didn’t commit or one that did not happen in the first place.
A skillful criminal lawyer will know of this possibility and aggressively try to convince the court of your innocence. Your attorney will do a background check on your accuser to determine the kind of relationship you have. If they have a motive to accuse you falsely, your attorney will use that to cause the court to reconsider your charges.
Your lawyer can use this defense if someone else committed the offense, but you are taking the blame. Again, it is common to be mistakenly identified as the offender while, in the real sense, someone else is to blame. Well-meaning victims can quickly identify the wrong person as the one that unlawfully and indecently exposed their nakedness or genitals in public.
That could happen if the offense were committed at night, or you strongly resemble the actual perpetrator. It could also be that the real perpetrator had partially hidden their face, making it a challenge for the victims to identify them correctly.
If that is the case, your attorney will use any means possible to convince the court that someone else and not you must have committed the act. It could be that you were not anywhere near the place where the offense occurred at the time. If your lawyer can prove that, the court will dismiss your charges.
California Indecent Exposure and Related Offenses
Indecent exposure is related to several other offenses under California law. Some are often charged together with it, while the others are charged in the place of indecent exposure. Here are the most common of these offenses:
Lewd Acts in Public — California PC 647(a)
You could face charges under this law if you touch yourself or someone else in a public place for sexual purposes. The touching part is what makes this offense different from indecent exposure. If you expose your nakedness or genitals in public and touch your body/genitals or those of another person for sexual arousal or gratification, you could face charges for both crimes.
Lewd act in public is generally a misdemeanor offense in California. When you face a charge for acting lewdly in public, district attorneys bring in the aspect of indecent exposure to make the charges more severe and increase penalties.
A violation of PC 647(a) does not carry a mandatory requirement to register like indecent exposure in the sex offender registry. Most defendants will quickly plead guilty to lewd acts in public instead of indecent exposure to avoid facing severe penalties upon conviction.
If you face the possibility of both charges, your lawyer can plead with the prosecutor on your behalf to drop the indecent exposure charges to take out the chance of having to register in the sex offender registry after conviction.
Lewd Act with a Child — California PC 288
You could face charges for having a lewd act with a child if you have an indecent act with a minor of 14 or 15 years, or a minor that you are, as a minimum, ten years older than. Lewd acts include lewd touching, making the offense slightly different from indecent exposure. But, if you expose your nakedness or genitals in front of a child while touching them, you could face charges for both offenses.
Having a lewd act with a child is a much more severe crime than indecent exposure. The law very much protects children. Thus, PC 288 is a wobbler offense, carrying even more severe penalties than indecent exposure for those convicted.
When convicted as a felony, PC 288 carries a maximum prison term of eight years if the alleged victim was 14 years or below. The offense also has severe immigration consequences and could make you lose your gun rights. The consequences of conviction become more stringent for professional license holders. You will automatically lose your practicing license after conviction under this law.
Find a Experienced Santa Ana Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Do you face charges for indecent exposure in Anaheim, CA?
It must be the most challenging period of your life. Indecent exposure is a grave offense, carrying severe penalties upon conviction. A conviction will also leave you with a damaging criminal record that could affect various aspects of your life. But, you can fight your charges with the right legal help. California Criminal Lawyer Group has a team of competent criminal lawyers willing to walk you through the process and fight your charges. We have extensive experience in handling similar cases. Thus, we know the right strategies to apply in your situation to compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. Call us at 714-766-0965 for more information.