Indecent Exposure

WHAT DOES THE PROSECUTOR HAVE TO PROVE

To prove you guilty of indecent exposure under Penal Code section 314, the prosecutor has to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a) you exposed your genitals b) you did so willfully c) you did so with the intent of drawing public attention to your genitals d) for the purpose of either sexually gratifying yourself or someone else, and e) in the presence of another individual who might be offended or annoyed by the exposure.  

CLOSER LOOK AT THE ELEMENTS

“Willfully”

You willfully commit indecent exposure when you actually intend to expose your genitals.  If you exposed your genitals accidentally, you cannot be found guilty of code section 314.  For example, as Joe is working in his backyard, his shorts get ripped, exposing his genitals.  Joe is unaware of this fact as he steps outside to check his mailbox.  A few neighbors see his exposed genitals and are offended by it.  Joe did not commit indecent exposure because he exposed his genitals accidentally, not intentionally.

“Expose” your genitals

“Expose” for the purpose of Penal Code section 314 means revealing your bare genitals or buttocks.  You do not commit indecent exposure if you merely showed your underwear, no matter how offended someone else might have gotten by the sight of your underwear.

“In the presence of another individual”

If the alleged indecent exposure did not take place in the presence of another individual who might be offended or annoyed by the exposure, you cannot be found guilty of a PC 314 violation.  If you were in an area where you reasonably believed that others would not see you, then the alleged exposure likely would not constitute indecent exposure.

Note that the code does not require that another person actually see your genitals.  The prosecutor can still convict you of indecent exposure so long as it took place in the presence of another individual, even if that person could not see your genitals.  For example, Jack exposes himself to his neighbor, Jill, at a dark movie theatre.  Another neighbor, Joe, notices Jack’s conduct and reports it.  Jack is still guilty of indecent exposure towards Jill, even though Jill could not see much of anything in the dark.

“Offended or annoyed”

For purposes of this particular requirement of the code, it matters not who your audience is.  Whether the person present was a prison guard, an undercover cop, a child,  or a young woman, what matters is whether he or she might have been offended or annoyed by your exposing yourself.   For example, Jack visits an urologist.  As he is sitting in the waiting room of the office, he sees an attractive male walk in.  Jack unzips his pants and attempts to expose his genitals to the young man, who is not at all paying attention to Jack and thus does not witness the exposure.  Dr. Oz, the urologist, walks by and sees Jack’s exposed genitals.  Jack is still guilty of indecent exposure towards Dr. Oz.  Although the doctor is an urologist and regularly sees male genitals, he might still be offended or annoyed by Jack’s exposed genitals.

“Intent to draw public attention to your genitals”

It is not enough for the prosecutor to prove that you willfully exposed your genitals.  He or she must also prove that you did so with the intent of directing other people’s attention to your genitals.  For example, Jack goes to a remote area of a park to sunbathe.  He takes off his clothes and lies on the grass, thinking that nobody will visit the area. A young couple walks by and sees Jack lying nude with his eyes closed.  The couple calls the police.  Jack is not guilty of indecent exposure because, while he intentionally exposed his genitals, he did not do so with the intent of drawing public attention to them.

“For the purpose of sexually gratifying, arousing, or offending”

It is not enough for the prosecutor to prove that you willfully exposed yourself with the intent of drawing public attention to your genitals.  He or she must also prove that you did so in order to sexually gratify or arouse yourself, sexually gratify or arouse someone else, or sexually offend someone else.  For example, Jack gets into an argument with a Joe, a storeowner.  Jack pulls down his pants and shows Joe his bare buttocks as a way of insulting Joe.  Although Jack intended to offend Joe, he did not do so with a sexual intent.  Thus, arguably, Jack is not guilty of indecent exposure.

PENALTIES FOR INDECENT EXPOSURE UNDER PENAL CODE SECTION 314

Simple indecent exposure for first time offenders

If you are a first time offender, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor 314. A conviction for a misdemeanor indecent exposure carries up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1000, and a requirement to register for a lifetime as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290.

Aggravated indecent exposure

If you expose yourself in an inhabited home or building, and you entered the home or building without permission, you can be charged with aggravated indecent exposure.  This offense is a wobbler, which means that it can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the specific circumstances of the offense and your criminal history.   If you are charged with a misdemeanor aggravated indecent exposure, you face the same penalties as above with the exception of an increased jail sentence of 1 year.   If you are charged with a felony aggravated indecent exposure, you face 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in the california state prison, a fine up to $10,000, and requirement that you register as a sex offender.

Indecent exposure and repeat offenders

If you are convicted of indecent as a subsequent offense, or you have a prior conviction for lewd acts on a minor, you will be charged with a felony indecent exposure and face the same penalties as aggravated felony indecent exposure above.

Requirement that you register as a sex offender

As noted above, whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony indecent exposure, you have to register as a sex offender.  Registration as a sex offender is a lifetime requirement, and if you fail to comply, you will be charged with a felony if you suffered a felony conviction for indecent exposure, and a misdemeanor if your conviction for indecent exposure was a misdemeanor.  Penalties for failure to register as a sex offender range from 1 year in county jail to 3 years in state prison.

DEFENSES TO INDECENT EXPOSURE UNDER PENAL CODE SECTION 314

Below are some common defenses to an allegation of indecent exposure:

  • You accidentally exposed your genitals

You cannot be found guilty of indecent exposure if you accidentally exposed your genitals.

  • The alleged exposure did not occur in the presence of anybody

If there was no one around to see the alleged indecent exposure, you cannot be found guilty of this offense.

  • You partially exposed your genitals

If your genitals were partially clothed, you cannot be found guilty of indecent exposure.

  • You did not act with sexual intent

Even if you exposed your genitals with the intent of drawing attention to them, you cannot be found guilty of indecent exposure unless you also acted with lewd or sexual intent.

HOW CAN WE HELP YOU

Actual Case:  In People v. Alex S. (Case number not disclosed at client’s request), the defendant, Mr. S., was accused by his neighbor of indecent exposure.   The neighbor claimed that Mr. S appeared at his front door and pulled down his pants, exposing his genitals.  Alex hired Negin Yamini to defend him against the charge.  Negin discovered that the neighbor had been in a long dispute with Alex regarding each individual’s access to a shared pathway. Through relentless and meticulous lawyering, Negin persuaded the prosecution that the neighbor falsely accused Alex in order to gain leverage in the civil dispute over the common pathway.  The prosecution ultimately dismissed the charge.

Negin’s strategy: As in every case, Negin does not at all take at face value the police officers’ rendition of the facts.  Negin not only examines the case for any deficiencies in the prosecution’s ability to prove the offense, but also closely investigates and researches the alleged victim background and circumstances for any motive to lie or fabricate.  This thorough lawyering is what resulted in the dismissal of the charge against Mr. Alex S. above.

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