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Indecent Exposure

California Penal Code §314 defines the crime of indecent exposure. If an individual exposes their genitalia, anus, or breasts of a female in a willful and lewd manner, in a public location where individuals present may be annoyed or offended by the act, you may be convicted of misdemeanor indecent exposure. Put differently, it is a crime to expose your genitalia, anus, or breasts if you are a female for the purpose of annoying someone else or for the purpose of self-gratification.

Examples

  • A woman, seeking a thrill, strips naked and runs around a college campus.
  • A man drove his car to a nearby park, and called woman over as they ran by his car. When they approached his window, he began masturbating in front of them.
  • A gentleman standing in the middle of a mall pulled his pants down and mooned everyone, exposing his anus.
  • A woman at a bar, who wanted the bartender’s attention, exposed her breasts

In order to be convicted of Indecent Exposure, in violation of California Penal Code §314, the Prosecution must prove the following elements to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant exposed their private parts;
  2. The Defendant was acting willfully when they exposed their private parts;
  3. When the Defendant willfully exposed their private parts, they did so in front of other people;
  4. The people present who observed the Defendant exposing their private parts might be offended or annoyed by the exposure of the Defendant’s private parts; AND
  5. When the Defendant willfully exposed their private parts, it was for the purpose of
    1. Arousing or gratifying themselves;
    2. Arousing or gratifying someone else; OR
    3. Offending someone else

As mentioned above, the Prosecution must prove every single element beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a fundamental principle in American Criminal Law, and is a Constitutional right. The Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution has been interpreted to place a very high burden on the Prosecution when they are attempting to deprive the Defendant of their freedom. As such, each and every element of Indecent Exposure provides a skilled defense attorney with the opportunity to disprove it, and thus obtain an acquittal for their clients. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has decades of combined experience representing individuals accused of all manners of criminal conduct; including indecent exposure. LACL’s intimate understanding of every element of the crime allows them to provide the very best representation available. The remainder of this article will discuss: (1) the specific elements of indecent exposure, (2) the penalties you may face if convicted of indecent exposure; and (3) what Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can do to assist you if you have been accused of indecent exposure.

Willfully

There are two types of crimes when it comes to the required intent to maintain a conviction; “general intent” and “specific intent[i].” General intent is often signaled with the word “willfully”, while specific intent is frequently signaled with the phrase “with the intent to…[ii]” Battery is a general intent crime. General intent requires that the Defendant intended to engage in the act that gave rise to the battery charges against them. It is no defense to say that the Defendant did not intend the outcome of their action, as that would be a defense to a specific intent crime. The legal community has been engaged in a discussion as to whether this definition is sufficient, it has been suggested that the correct definition of willfully is a person acts “willfully” when they engage in conduct on purpose, they are aware of what they are doing, and they intend to engage in that act[iii]. For practical purposes, absent extenuating circumstances, this element is fairly easy for the Prosecution to prove; many of the defenses your LACL attorney can raise will be aimed at negating the possibility that the Defendant was acting willfully.

In order to be convicted for indecent exposure, the Prosecution must submit evidence which shows that you willfully performed an act that has the natural and probable result of exposing the private parts of the Defendant.

Example:

Denise was at a country bar in downtown Los Angeles, when she decided she wanted to try and ride the mechanical bull. At the time Denise was wearing a shirt that showed ample cleavage. While riding the mechanical bull, her breast became exposed to everyone who was observing. Denise may have satisfied the first element of the crime, if the jury determines that the natural and probable result of riding a mechanical bull is to expose the private parts of the person engaging in that act.

Exposing the Defendant’s Private Parts

A conviction for indecent exposure can only occur if the Prosecution can prove that you willfully exposed your private parts. The question of what constitutes “private parts” is particularly vague, but certainly includes the genitals and the anus. In some circumstances, the breasts of a female will constitute “private parts” for purposes of indecent exposure. It should be noted that the crime does not occur simply because the Defendant’s private parts were exposed, someone must actually observe the exposure of your private parts.

Annoying or Offending Others

In addition to willfully exposing your private parts, the Prosecution must also show that the Victims were actually annoyed or offended by the exposure of the Defendant’s private parts. Thus, if the Prosecution cannot present someone who was annoyed or offended by the Defendant’s act, they cannot be convicted of indecent exposure

Intent to Expose Private Parts to the Public

Indecent exposure has two specific intent requirements in order for a conviction o stand. The first of those specific intentions in that the Defendant specifically intended to expose themselves to the public. Thus, if there was no intention of causing the public to focus on your private parts, you have not satisfied this element of the crime, and cannot be convicted.

Example:

Dina frequently sunbathes nude in the backyard of her house in Los Angeles. After a particularly harsh storm, part of the fence around her backyard had broken off, allowing people walking down the street to see into her backyard. Unaware of this, Dina sunbathed naked in her backyard and was observed by a family on their way to church; they were deeply offended. Dina cannot be convicted of indecent exposure because she did not intend to expose herself to the public.

Sexual Arousal or Gratification

The Prosecution must also prove that the Defendant intended to expose themselves to the public for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. Specifically, the Court requires a showing that the intent of exposing yourself was sexual or lewd in nature. An example of this would be a gentleman who can only get aroused by exposing himself to strangers. This element is the focus of many theories of defense because evidence of this intent is difficult to obtain.

EXAMPLE:

Dan mooned oncoming traffic because he thought it was funny. Despite exposing his anus to oncoming traffic, Dan is not guilty of indecent exposure because the purpose of his exposure was not sexual or lewd.

EXAMPLE:

Dan has always had a crush on his next door neighbor. Both of them can see into each other’s windows. One day Dan gets completely naked and stands in front of his window until his neighbor sees him. Dan may be convicted of indecent exposure because the purpose was sexual in nature.

I Have Been Convicted of Indecent Exposure, What Penalties May I Face?

Indecent exposure, without more, is a misdemeanor offense in California. If you are convicted of indecent exposure, you will face incarceration in county jail for a period not exceeding one (1) year and/or a fine of up to one-thousand ($1,000) dollars. Further, you will be forced to register as a sex offender.

If the indecent exposure happened inside an inhabited home, without the inhabitant’s consent to be there, the charge can be brought as a felony. This is known as a “wobbler offense.”

If you are convicted of felony indecent exposure, you will face incarceration in a California State Prison for a period of sixteen (16) months, or two (2) or three (3) years and/or a fine not exceeding ten-thousand ($10,000) dollars. Additionally, you will be forced to register as a sex offender.

I Have Been Accused of Indecent Exposure, How Can Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Help Me?

If you have been accused of indecent exposure, there are significant consequences you may face. Indecent exposure is known as a sex crime, which means if convicted, you may have to register as a sex offender. Further, a conviction will remain on your criminal background, which employers frequently check in order to screen out applicants for jobs. Employers are hesitant to hire individuals with criminal backgrounds, and sex crimes carry an enhanced stigma with most people. Further, if you are registered as a sex offender, the information will be available to anybody who conducts an internet search of your name, which could result in public humiliation. Thus, it is important to defeat the charges against you, or obtain a sentence that doesn’t involve registering as a sex offender. The skilled attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer understand the consequences a conviction for sex crimes can have on your life, and will fight vigorously to protect your interests. If the case goes to trial, your LACL attorney will raise a number of defenses including:

  • Insufficient evidence

As mentioned at the outset of this article, the Prosecution must prove every element of the crime you are accused of beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that if the evidence fails to reach that threshold, you cannot be convicted of indecent exposure. Intent is a very difficult element to prove, and frequently forms the basis of a skilled attorney’s theory of defense.

  • Wrongfully accused
  • Illegally obtained evidence
  • Lack of intent to expose private parts to the public
  • Failure of the Prosecution to show anyone was annoyed or offended
  • The intention of the Defendant was not sexual in nature
  • The Defendant did not act willfully

If you or a loved one has been accused of indecent exposure, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer today at 310-502-1314 for a FREE consultation.


i This is often referred to as the “mens reas” component of the crime.

ii Distinguish Assault with a Caustic Chemical or Flammable Substance (Link to “Assault with a Caustic Chemical or Flammable Substance” page) and “simple assault”

iii California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1, California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1

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