What is Indecent Exposure?
Pursuant to California Penal Code §314, it is a misdemeanor to willfully, and lewdly expose their privates, or any portion of their privates, in any public place where there are people present who may be offended or annoyed by that conduct. In other words, in California, it is a misdemeanor to expose your private parts to someone else for the purpose of self-gratification, or to annoy another person. A widely covered example of this is when gentlemen exposed himself, and began masturbating in San Diego.
- A woman, in an effort to sexually arouse her boyfriend, exposes her breasts in a crowded restaurant during restaurant week.
- A man in a trench coat walking around a park, and exposing his genitals to women as they jogged by.
- A grown man, who stood on the corner of a busy intersection, exposing his genitals to drivers as they passed by for sexual gratification
- A woman at a popular nightclub exposing her breasts to everyone in the vicinity for the purposes of self-gratification.
- Walking into a grocery store completely naked.
To be convicted under California Penal Code §314, the prosecution must prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You willfully caused your genitals to be exposed in front of other people, who might be annoyed, or offended, by the exposure of your genitals.
- When you exposed your genitals, you did it for the purpose of drawing attention to your genital, or for the purpose of gratifying or arousing themselves or another person, or for the purpose of offending someone else.
It is important to understand both these elements, as if either is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt; you cannot be convicted of indecent exposure. The attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney have ample experience representing clients in all types of criminal charges, including indecent exposure. If there is even one piece of the puzzle missing, if one element is not completely proven, your OCCA attorney will fight to have the charges dismissed against you.
What is Willfully?
The first fact the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, is that you acted willfully in exposing your genitals. This means, you meant to engage in the conduct that would likely result in the exposure of your genitalia. It does not matter if you had no intent to break the law, hurt someone, or gain some kind of advantage.
The evidence necessary to sustain a conviction for indecent exposure is that you willfully engaged in the conduct, which would likely result in your genitals becoming exposed.
Julia was at the bar Double Deuce, in Downtown San Diego. After a few drinks, she decided she wanted to ride the mechanical bull, even though she was wearing a halter top. As the mechanical bull ramped up, Julia’s halter top fell down, exposing her breasts to all the patrons at Double Deuce. Julia cannot be convicted for indecent exposure, as she acted willfully in getting on the mechanical bull, she did not willfully expose her breasts; that was an accident.
What does it mean to Expose your Genitals?
Under California law, the crime of indecent exposure involves exposing your intimate parts, or being naked in public to get gratification, or offend other people. California has suggested that if you expose your underwear, or in some cases, your breasts, you cannot be found to be guilty of indecent exposure. The statute is unclear as to what constitutes “private parts”, but it appears that the definition is based off the cultural norm in the area. The Courts have been very clear that private parts include sexual organs such as the penis, anus, or vagina. Exposure does not simply mean that it is exposed; it requires that the victim’s actually observed the exposure. Thus, if you did expose your genitals, and nobody was around to see it, you cannot be convicted of this crime.
WHAT DOES THE ELEMENT THAT “THE VICTIMS WERE OFFENDED OR ANNOYED BY THE DEFENDANT'S ACTIONS” MEAN?
As noted in the preceding sections, the victim of the exposure must be offended by the conduct of exposing yourself. It should be noted that even if the victim is not annoyed by the conduct of exposing your genitals, you could still be found guilty of indecent exposure if the individual was annoyed by the act of exposing yourself. Note, if you were naked in a secluded area, and someone else was to stumble upon you, you would not be guilty of indecent exposure.
What Does the Element That “The defendant's intent to direct public attention to his private parts” Mean?
Pursuant to California law, it is a prerequisite that the individual must have the intent to expose themselves to a direct public, before a conviction will stand. In other words, indecent exposure is a “specific intent” crime. Consequently, if you did not intend to have attention drawn to your genitals, you cannot be convicted of indecent exposure.
Tom always visits a private grove near his mansion; he enjoys the secluded area and the opportunity to strut through the grove naked. One day, after a few too many vodka tonics, Joe fell asleep in the grove. A group of hikers accidentally stumbled upon Tom’s secret grove, and observed him lying on his back, genitals fully exposed. The hikers promptly summoned the police. Tom will not be guilty of indecent exposure, since he never intended to expose his genitalia to the public He had always been alone in the grove, and had absolutely no way of knowing that anybody would ever see.
What does the Element “For the purpose of sexual arousal or sexual offending” Mean?
Another element of this crime that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is that in exposing themselves, the person acted with the goal of arousing, or offending. For example, if showing your genitals to strangers was your fetish, and you exposed yourself for that purpose, you would likely be found to satisfy this element. The statute is clear that it requires the purpose of exposure to be lewd or sexual in nature. It is difficult to prove this element, and is usually the target of most defense theories.
An example of the Court enforcing the sexual motivation element can be found in a case where a young man mooned oncoming traffic, because he thought it was funny. The Court found that he could not be convicted for indecent exposure because his actions were not motivated by sexual impulses. In re Dallas W. (2000) 85 C.A.4th 937, 102 C.R.2d 493.
In contrast, if in the course of road rage, one man exposed his genitals to another drive while making obscene comments, he could be found guilty of indecent exposure. The Court distinguished this conviction from the mooning case by finding that the purpose of the exposure of his genitals was to provide a sexual affront to the other driver.
What Are the Penalties for Indecent Exposure?
In California, indecent exposure is considered a misdemeanor. If convicted of indecent exposure, you may face up to one (1) year in jail, a fine of up to one-thousand ($1,000), or a combination of both. Additionally, if you are convicted, you may be forced to register as a sex offender. If you are registered as a sex offender, this title will follow you for the rest of your life.
If the exposure occurred inside a home that is inhabited, without permission to be inside that home, the charge becomes a “wobbler offense”, which means the Prosecution can choose to charge you with either a misdemeanor, or a felony.
If you are charged with felony indecent exposure, you may face imprisonment ranging from sixteen (16) months to three (3) years, a fine of up to ten-thousand ($10,000), or a combination of both. Further, you may be forced to register as a sex offender. If registered as a sex offender, you will have that label for the rest of your life.
What Are the Legal Defense My OCCA Attorney Can Raise if I am Charged with Indecent Exposure?
If you are convicted of indecent exposure, you may have to register as a sex offender. This is in addition to the misdemeanor, or felony, appearing on your criminal background check. It is common practice for employers to screen potential employees by checking their background. Employers are generally hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record, especially ones involving sexual acts, which require registration as a sex offender. It is critical that you obtain representation at the earliest point possible so the skilled attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney can begin building a defense for you. As mentioned above, there are a number of chinks in the Prosecution’s case. These chinks range from intent, whether you actually exposed your genitalia and more.
If you are charged with indecent exposure in California under California Penal Code §314, and OCCA attorney can, and will, raise a number of defenses to increase your chances of obtaining a not-guilty verdict. These defenses include:
- Insufficient evidence
To be convicted of a crime like this the Prosecution must prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt. This means if there is even one whole in their argument, you cannot be convicted of indecent exposure. As mentioned above, intent is a very difficult fact for a Prosecutor to prove; competent counsel may be able to rip the Prosecution’s case in half if they fail to prove that element.
- Wrongfully accused
In California, there are not many hurdles to an individual wrongfully accusing another of a crime; especially sex crimes. It frequently becomes a he said, she said, type of situation. There are a number of reasons why someone might do this, be it rage, jealously, or attention-seeking. At OCCA we are familiar with representing clients who are wrongfully accused, and we will fight vigorously to prove that you were wrongfully accused, and obtain your freedom before charges are every formally made.