California Penal Code 314 makes it a crime to expose your private body parts in a public place. Your actions fall under the legal definition of indecent exposure if you expose yourself to annoy another person or gratify yourself sexually. Indecent exposure is a serious sex crime, and a criminal conviction's consequences could be life-changing. In addition to spending a significant amount of time behind bars, a conviction for a felony or misdemeanor indecent exposure carries a mandatory sex offender registration.
Your name on the sex offender registry will affect your professional and personal relationships. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is critical if you or a loved one faces criminal charges for indecent exposure. A skilled attorney can help you explore different defense strategies to avoid a conviction and the consequences of the conviction. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we offer top-notch legal guidance and representation for all our clients battling indecent exposure charges in Los Angeles, CA.
Understanding Indecent Exposure in California
Different people have different definitions of indecency. For some individuals, wearing revealing clothing is indecent, while for others, full nudity is the only thing they would consider indecent. Under California Penal Code 314, you commit a crime of indecent exposure when you expose your bare genitals willfully in the presence of other people. While indecent exposure doesn’t involve sexual contact, violation of PC 314 is a sex offense whose conviction can have life-altering effects on your life.
Before the court convicts you, the prosecutor must prove the elements. The elements of crime often relate to your actions that violated the Penal Code and must be backed up with sufficient evidence. The elements include:
1) You Exposed your Genitals
While nudity may be clear to everyone, it is important to understand the legal definition of genitals for indecent exposure. An indecent exposure charge will only stick if you expose your buttocks, vagina, or penis. It is important to understand that exposing yourself in underwear or other innerwear is not considered indecent exposure. Additionally, this statute does not allow exposing female breasts for sexual purposes or breastfeeding.
2) Your Actions Were Willful
One of the elements that must be clear when you face indecent exposure charges is that your actions were deliberate and not accidental or out of coercion. The prosecution will analyze your case's aspects to determine whether you purposely revealed yourself. Proving a willful act requires the prosecution to show how the willfulness relates to the location you chose to expose the genitals. For example, if you are at a beach and your towel falls accidentally, you cannot be guilty under this statute.
3) You Exposed Yourself in front of Another Person
The prosecution proves your guilt under PC 314 by showing that you exposed your genitals in another person’s presence, and the person might be annoyed or offended by the action. Revealing your genitals alone will not attract a conviction for indecent exposure. A conviction arises when evidence proves that you performed the act in front of other people or in an area where people were gathered.
When establishing this element, the prosecutor could call upon a witness who can affirm your actions and testify that you offended them. However, it is unnecessary that the person who witnessed your actions was offended at the moment. Provided the exposure of your genitals could elicit such a reaction in a normal person, you can face a conviction.
4) You Intended to Draw Attention to Your Genitals
Another element that defines indecent exposure is the requirement that you act intending to create attention to your private parts. For example, exposing your genitals and attempting to touch them may cause the prosecution to conclude that you intended to draw other people’s attention to you. Additionally, standing in a strategic position or waiting for people to show up and reveal their genitals could help solidify this element.
5) You Exposed your Genitals to Annoy Another Person or for Sexual Gratification
Exposing your private parts or even drawing attention to them will not satisfy the requirement of indecent exposure unless your intention for doing so is clear. Before convicting you under PC 314, the court requires the prosecution to prove that your actions were sexually motivated. This means that you intended to accomplish any of the following:
- Sexually gratify yourself
- Gratify another person’s sexual desires
- Annoy or offend another person sexually
Sentencing and Punishment for Indecent Exposure in California
For first-time-offenders. Indecent exposure is charged as a simple misdemeanor. A conviction, in this case, attracts the following penalties:
- A six months jail sentence
- Fines that do not exceed $1,000
- The requirement to register as a sex offender for up to ten years
On the other hand, if you engage in indecent exposure under the following circumstances, you will face charges for aggravated indecent exposure, which is a wobbler:
- You entered a home or building without permission and exposed your genitals to other people.
- You committed the crime in an inhabited dwelling.
A wobbler means that the prosecution can file misdemeanor or felony charges. In addition to how you committed the crime, our criminal history may play a part, like your charges under PC 314. As a misdemeanor, wobbler indecent exposure is punishable by a year in county jail.
If you face a conviction for felony indecent exposure, you could suffer the following legal penalties:
- A prison sentence ranging from sixteen months, two years, or three years.
- Fines amounting to $10,000.
- A ten-year minimum duty to register as a sex offender.
Sex Offender Registration for Indecent Exposure in California
Registering as a sex offender is one of the penalties you face for indecent exposure. Whether you face a felony or a misdemeanor conviction, you must enter and remain in the sex offender registry for at least ten years. Having your name on the sex offender registry is more damaging than depending on the time in jail or prison.
Like a criminal record, the sex offender registry is a public record. If a person does a background check on you, they can discover the registration and use it to discriminate against you. The requirement to register as a sex offender means that you must update your registration with local law enforcement agencies every year. Before the enactment of Senate Bill 384, sex offenders had to remain in the registry for a lifetime. However, with the new laws, the maximum a person must register as a sex offender is twenty years.
Failure to register as a sex offender or update your status after an indecent exposure attracts serious charges under PC 290. If your initial indecent exposure charge is a felony, you will face charges and a conviction for a felony under this statute. On the other hand, individuals who fail to register as sex offenders after a misdemeanor conviction under PC 314 will face misdemeanor charges.
In addition to spending time behind bars, most professional bodies take disciplinary action against their members after a conviction for a crime requiring sex offender registration. Some of the disciplinary actions you could face include a suspension or revocation of your practice livelihood. This could greatly impact your livelihood. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is paramount if you face charges for indecent exposure.
Legal Defense to Penal Code 314 Charges
Facing charges for indecent exposure can be devastating, especially when your actions were accidental or innocent. The consequences of a PC 314 conviction can cause you to spend time in jail and ruin your life afterward.
Fortunately, the prosecution must satisfy all the elements of the crime before obtaining a conviction. If one of the elements is unclear, you can attack the prosecution’s case and have your charges reduced, or the case dismissed. Some of the legal defenses you can employ against Penal Code 314 charges include:
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
You Cannot be guilty of indecent exposure unless all elements of the crime are proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, you cannot be criminally liable for the offense if the evidence suggests any of these facts.
- There were no witnesses who could testify to the account of events
- Your genitals were covered
- Your actions were not intentional
- The intent is not clear
Additionally, you can argue that there is insufficient evidence of indecent exposure when you expose yourself in a secluded area where no one would have noticed your actions.
A well-meaning person can be mistakenly identified as someone who exposed their genitals. For example, when the alleged crime occurs in a dark area or crowded place like the beach, it may be difficult for a witness to identify the person who performed the act correctly. With the guidance of a skilled sex defense lawyer, you can use tools like establishing an alibi and seeking video surveillance to prove that you are not the person in question.
Indecent exposure has harsh legal consequences. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a person driven by anger or jealousy to falsely accuse you of the crime. Sometimes, reporters of an incident exaggerate the extent of your actions or lie about the occurrences. Speaking with your attorney about the incident will help them to uncover any falsified or exaggerated testimonies and prove the case of false accusations to the court. If the prosecution claims that the incident occurred in a public place where video surveillance may be available, you can request that surveillance to prove your case.
You Exposed Yourself Accidentally
One of the key elements of indecent exposure is the willfulness of your actions. The prosecution must show that you deliberately exposed your private parts to inform others. When exposure to genitals is accidental, you cannot be found guilty of indecent exposure.
Lack of Sexual Gratification Intent
The last element that defines indecent exposure is the intent to gratify yourself or annoy another person sexually. If the prosecution cannot prove the sexual gratification intent, you can avoid a conviction under PC 314. One of the ways through which you can prove a lack of intent is by arguing that you were intoxicated. Although intoxication is not an excuse to commit a crime, it can help reduce your charges to a lesser offense like lewd conduct.
Expunging a PC 314 Conviction
The consequences of an indecent exposure conviction are grave. Fortunately, you do not have to deal with the disabilities associated with the conviction for a lifetime. There are various ways to escape these consequences, including the expungement of the record. An expungement is a court proceeding where you are released from the disabilities of your conviction.
While most defendants can expunge their criminal conviction, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- You have completed your probation. If you were sentenced to probation for indecent exposure, you could only receive an expungement relief after completing your probation successfully. If your probation sentence is lengthy and you want to expunge the record, you can request the court for early termination.
- You are not facing any criminal charges. The court mandates that all individuals petitioning for expungement should not have a pending criminal case or serve a sentence for another offense.
The process of expunging your PC 314 conviction involves the following steps:
- Fill out the necessary paperwork
- File a petition with the court
- Appear for the expungement hearing
- Refile your petition if the court denies the first one
If the court grants you an expungement, you can withdraw your plea of no contest or guilty for a not guilty plea. With an expunged indecent exposure conviction, employers cannot discriminate against you. Additionally, you may find it easier to obtain a professional license and avoid harsh immigration consequences. Although expungement offers many benefits, you must understand that post-conviction relief will not end your duty to register as a sex offender after a conviction for indecent exposure. In addition, an expunged conviction can still be used as a prior” if you commit other sex offenses.
Offenses Related to Indecent Exposure in California
Some offenses are related to indecent exposure laws. Sometimes, the court will charge you with these offenses together with or instead of indecent exposure. Offenses related to PC 314 include:
Lewd Conduct with a Minor, PC 288
California law defines lewd acts with a minor as any lascivious acts made upon the body of a child under fourteen years with intent for sexual arousal or gratification. You commit a crime under California PC 288 when you engage in any of the following acts:
- You willfully touch a child’s body
- Willfully cause the minor to touch themselves or touch your body
If you use fear, force, or violence to commit the act of lewd conduct with a child, you will face a more serious charge under PC 2889b) (1). If you expose your genitals in a public place and cause a child to touch them, you can face charges for indecent exposure and lewd conduct with a child.
After proving the physical contact between you and the alleged victim, the prosecution must move forward to prove your sexually motivated intent. Criminal intent is one of the most challenging elements to prove. Whether or not your intentions were intended for sexual gratification or arousal is determined by the jury.
Some of the factors that the jury could consider when determining your intent include:
- Whether or not you and the victim know each other
- The nature and context of the touching
- Absence of an innocent explanation for the touching
The penalties for lascivious acts with a child could include three, six, or eight years in state prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines. The severity of your penalties after a conviction will vary depending on the alleged victim's age.
Lewd Conduct in Public, PC 647(a)
You commit a crime of lewd conduct in public for engaging or soliciting another person to engage in lewd conduct in an open or public location. The prosecution must prove these elements to establish your liability under PC 647(a):
- You touched another person’s genitals or buttocks
- You touched the person with a sexual gratification intent or to annoy the alleged victim
- You commit the act in public view
- A person who might have been offended by your actions was present
- You knew or should have known that another person was offended by your actions
The prosecution can file charges for indecent exposure or lewd conduct in public depending on how you expose your body or the specific act you engage in. Violation of PC 647(a) is a misdemeanor, and a conviction attracts six months jail sentence and $ 1,000 in fines.
In the absence of aggravating circumstances, the court can grant you misdemeanor probation instead of jail time. The conditions of misdemeanor probation under this statute include:
- Mandatory counseling
- Aids test
- The requirement to stay away from the location where the crime occurred
Solicitation of a Prostitute, PC 647(b)
California PC 647(b) prohibits the following acts:
- Engaging in prostitution. You engage in prostitution when you willfully engage in sexual intercourse or other lewd acts for money.
- Solicitation of prostitution acts. Soliciting prostitution involves requesting another person to engage in sexual intercourse for compensation.
- Agreeing to engage in prostitution. If another person requests you to engage in sexual intercourse for money and you accept, you can face charges and a conviction for prostitution solicitation.
Solicitation and prostitution are charged as a misdemeanor in California. A first offense is punishable by a six months jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. For subsequent offenses, the court imposes a mandatory minimum sentence. In addition to jail time and fines, a conviction under PC 647(b) attracts a ten-year sex offender registration requirement.
Disturbing Peace, PC 415
If you face charges for indecent exposure and there is no evidence that you flashed your genitals or the intent is unclear, your attorney can seek a plea deal for a lesser crime like disturbing the peace. Under PC 415, disturbing peace involves playing loud music, using offensive language, or fighting in public.
Disturbing peace can be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction. The maximum penalty you can face for this offense includes a ninety-day jail sentence and up to $400 in fines.
Trespass, PC 602
California PC 602 defines trespass as entering another person’s property and remaining there without authorization. The most common acts that are prohibited under this statute include:
- Entering a person’s property to damage their property
- Entering a property to interfere or obstruct business
- Refusing to leave private property after the owner asks you to do so
- Taking soils, stones, or wood from a person’s property without authorization
If you enter another person's property and expose your genitals to the people inside, you could face an arrest and charges for trespass and indecent exposure. Depending on the circumstances of your case and your intention of entering the property, you could face felony or misdemeanor trespass.
A conviction m-for misdemeanor trespass is punishable by:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A maximum of $1,000 in fines
If you enter the property after making a threat against the owner, you could face a felony trespass conviction. A felony conviction under PC 602 is punishable by a three-year prison sentence and fines that do not exceed $10,000.
Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Sometimes, your freedom to carry out activities like changing your clothes at the beach could be cut short by the fear of facing an arrest and charges for indecent exposure. California law defines indecent exposure as the willful exposure of your genitals in a public place to annoy another person. Although your intentions may be innocent, your unintentional or accidental acts may be wrongly interpreted and bring indecent exposure charges.
The stakes are high for defendants facing indecent exposure charges. The consequences of an indecent exposure conviction go beyond jail time and fines. You may be required to register as a sex offender and have a permanent criminal record that affects all aspects of your life. When faced with indecent exposure charges, seeking legal guidance is wise.
Your attorney will help you investigate different aspects of your case and build a strong defense to fight the charges. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we will offer you the guidance you need to secure a favorable outcome for your case. Contact us today at 424-333-0943 to discuss the details of your case.