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What Is Indecent Exposure

Posted in Criminal Defense,Sex Crimes on December 24, 2019

State law in California prohibits indecent exposure. This is considered a sex crime under Penal Code 314 PC, and a person found guilty of this charge could face a range of penalties. However, defining indecent exposure is not particularly easy. You may have heard that people only get charged with indecent exposure if they do something sexually suggestive. You may also have heard that people can get charged with indecent exposure for urinating in public. We need to delve into the law itself and discuss how it is applied in California.

What does the law say, exactly?

Penal Code 314 PC is written very broadly. When you look at the actual statute, you will see that it was first enacted in 1872. Obviously, what society considers indecent has changed since that time. There have been revisions to the law, but no substantive changes. The statue is vague but is generally interpreted as a person willfully exposing their genitals to someone else with the desire to sexually gratify themselves or to offend the other person.

Some ways in which a person could be charged with indecent exposure could include:

  • A man exposing their genitals to patrons leaving a bar with the intention of offending them (or as a perverse way of coming onto them).
  • A female baring her breasts in a crowded retail store with the purpose of sexually gratifying herself or her boyfriend.
  • A teenage boy exposing his genitals to a teacher or school official with the purpose of offending them.

What are the penalties for indecent exposure in California?

There are a few sets of penalties that apply to indent exposure charges in California.

A first offense, in most cases, is a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000. A second offense, however, is a felony charge that can lead to a prison sentence in California.

Perhaps the worst punishment for a Penal Code 314 PC conviction is the requirement for a person to register as a Tier one sex offender for a minimum of 10 years. Indecent exposure is considered a sex crime and is treated as such.

Those who have to register as sex offenders face incredible scrutiny from both the state and the public. Sex offenders are highly regulated as to where they can live, and much of their information is part of a public database. This database typically includes a person’s name, photograph, home address, place of employment, their charges, and more. Sex offenders often have trouble gaining and keeping employment and going to school.

What about breastfeeding or urinating in public?

Most states, including California, carve our exceptions for mothers breastfeeding in public. This is seen across the country as a civil right, though some people do try to cause trouble for breastfeeding mothers. Rest assured, a mother who is breastfeeding her child will not face indecent exposure charges.

A person urinating in public will generally not face an indecent exposure charge, particularly because they are not (presumably) doing to for sexual gratification or to offend another person. They could, however, face other public nuisance charges from the state or a local municipality. In general, a person should reserve using the restroom for a bathroom in order to avoid trouble altogether.