The state of California has several laws in place governing sex crimes such as rape and indecent exposure. Because of the nature of these crimes, severe punishments are imposed on anyone found guilty of any sex crime in the state. Since most of these crimes happen behind the scenes, it is very easy to be falsely accused of a crime such as indecent exposure.
If this happens to you or your loved one, it is good to seek the help of the best criminal defense attorneys to defend you against your charges. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is a firm comprising of experienced criminal defense attorneys who are ready to defend you.
Legal Definition of Indecent Exposure
In the state of California, laws against indecent exposure are provided under Section 314 of the state’s Penal Code. The crime is defined as willfully exposing one’s genitals to another person, with the intention of sexual gratification or with the mere desire to offend that other person. Indecent exposure in the state is a broad subject and can sometimes be vague. The law can cover conduct that might have seemed legal to you. If you are facing criminal charges for indecent exposure, you might need legal help if you have a feeling that your rights may be violated.
Much has changed in what society terms as indecent, but indecent exposure laws in California have remained the same for so many years after their enactment in 1872. Some acts that can be regarded as indecent exposure and are punishable by law include:
- An adolescent boy who exposes his private parts to older women in a public place to offend them
- A female who exposes her breasts in a public place to sexually gratify her male companion
Elements of Indecent Exposure
The crime of indecent exposure entails some key factors, which the prosecutor must demonstrate to find an accused person guilty of the offense. These factors are elements of this crime, and they are:
- That the accused willfully exposed their private parts in front of other people to draw their interest to his/her genitals for his/her sexual gratification or sexual gratification of another person.
- The exposure may also have been done with the intention of annoying other people
The main elements here are the two intentions: sexual gratification for the offender or another person and offending another person. From the definition comes the essential legal terms that must be proven for you to be found guilty of the offense:
Willfully: for one to be convicted with indecent exposure, the court must determine that they willfully exposed themselves publicly. Willfully, in this case, means intending to commit a crime or offend someone else. What this means is that any person that accidentally exposed their genitals will not be found guilty of this crime.
Exposed genitals: exposing oneself means that one has revealed their nakedness. To expose one’s genitals means baring one’s private parts. There are exceptions for this crime, which might include:
- Exposing one's innerwear. However revealing your underwear is, you cannot be charged with indecent exposure
- Revealing one’s breasts (women). Whether this has been done for sexual reasons or for the purposes of feeding a child, the act cannot be charged as indecent exposure
In the presence of people who could be offended or annoyed: to be found guilty of indecent exposure, there must be proof that you did so in front of someone else or people, and that person or people might have been annoyed or offended by your actions.
Example: if a person publicly exposed their genitals, but the place was a separate area where they believed that no one would see them, they may not be found guilty of indecent exposure even if another person saw it and was annoyed or offended by their actions.
Note that when it comes to indecent exposure in California, the court will not take into consideration whether or not there was an audience. If a person exposed their private parts to undercover police for instance, or a corrections officer or even an unsuspecting person, they might be found guilty of indecent exposure but only if the prosecutor can prove other fundamentals of the offense.
With the intention of drawing people’s interest to your private parts: Section 314 of California laws requires one to have the purpose of drawing public interest to their genitals for them to be found culpable of the crime of indecent exposure. What this means is that baring your genitals is not enough to convict you; there must be proof that you did so to direct people to your private parts. However, if a man exposed himself to passersby in a shady backstreet will be found guilty of indecent exposure, even though no one saw his genitals.
For sexual gratification or to sexually offend other people: exposing your private parts to other people, even if it was done to draw their interest to your private parts may not be charged under California Code 314 if it was not done lewdly or with sexual motivation. This means that the act has to be done for the offender's sexual gratification, for the sexual satisfaction of another person, or to offend another person. A person who exposes themselves to get sexually aroused or to arouse another person sexually will also be found guilty of this offense if all the other elements are satisfied.
It is important to note that the district attorney must prove each of those elements before you can be declared guilty of the offense of indecent exposure. If he/she is only able to demonstrate one of those elements above and beyond a reasonable doubt, then you will not be found guilty of the charge.
The Penalties of Indecent Exposure
Generally, the crime of indecent exposure in California is convicted as a misdemeanor, commonly referred to as a simple misdemeanor act of indecent exposure. If found guilty of this offense, the offender will face the following penalties:
- A maximum of six months behind bars
- A fine of maximum $1000
- An obligation to register in the state as a sex criminal for a minimum period of 10 years, as provided under Section 290 of California laws
There are aggravated cases of indecent exposure, which occurs under the following conditions:
- That the offender committed the act in an occupied home, building or trailer
- That they entered that home, building or trailer without permission
The aggravated form of indecent exposure is treated as a wobbler in California, and this means that the crime can be convicted as a felony or misdemeanor, based on the nature of the crime and the judge.
If convicted as a misdemeanor, aggravated indecent exposure offenders will be punished by the above penalties, but their maximum jail term could go up to one year. However, if convicted as a felony, the offender may receive the following sentences:
- 16 months, or two years, or three years of incarceration
- A maximum of $10,000 in fine
- A mandatory obligation to list yourself as a sex criminal for a minimum of 10 years
Repeat indecent exposure offenders will automatically receive a felony sentence if found guilty of the current charges. This applies to offenders who have faced the same or similar charges of indecent exposure for the second or more time. The same will apply to offenders who have suffered their first conviction of indecent exposure, but they have a previous conviction of lewd behavior with a child as provided under Section 288 of California laws.
For repeat offenders, the punishments will be the same as those of aggravated felony indecent exposure offense.
The offender’s burden to register themselves as sex offenders
This is one of the many severe penalties an offender found guilty of indecent exposure can get in California. The requirement is provided under Section 290 f California laws. According to this statute, an offender can be required to list themselves as a sex criminal for a minimum of 10 years, whether they are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony indecent exposure. Failure to act in accordance with this requirement will see the offender facing additional charges of failing to register.
Failing to list yourself as a sex delinquent is convicted as a felony in the state if you were obligated to list yourself because of an underlying felony indecent exposure sentence or a misdemeanor if the underlying conviction was a misdemeanor. Penalties for failing to register will be at least one year of incarceration for a misdemeanor conviction and a maximum of three years in a California prison for a felony conviction.
Note that if you were a registered professional, operating with a license, your association could impose additional discipline on you if you receive a conviction for any sex crime in California that requires an offender to register themselves as sex offenders. This generally happens for the following associations:
- Nursing licenses
- Licenses for the dental board
- Medical board licenses for doctors
- All similar specialized licenses
Misdemeanor convictions for indecent exposure are typically excluded from this statute. If you work in an occupation that necessitates you to register and obtain a professional permit, you may not lose your professional permit automatically even if you are sentenced to a misdemeanor indecent exposure.
However, the conviction can significantly change the way you relate with your family, friends, patients, and the members of the public. That is why you need to fight these charges as much as you can, for the court not to find you guilty or for your charges to be reduced. For this, you need the help of a competent criminal defense attorney.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do For You?
Criminal charges carry several undesirable troubles even for a person that is falsely accused. Some of these troubles may include severe penalties, hefty fines, and significant impacts on the accused's personal, professional, and social life. To avoid these and other undesirable consequences, it is crucial to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney who is conversant with the legal system and one who will be able to help lower or dismiss the charges you are facing. There is much that your attorney can do to help your case:
Review your case: the first thing your attorney should do is to understand your situation in detail to find weak points and loopholes that they can use in your defense. Your attorney will go through every aspect of your case, and then suggest measures that he/she can take to tackle the issue, even if the defendant is at fault.
Gather information: it is essential to have as much information about the case as possible, and the best person to do this is a legal professional. Your attorney will visit the scene of the crime, interview eyewitnesses, and do anything that will give him/her valuable information that could strengthen your defense. In addition to that, your attorney will help protect any evidence gathered in your defense from being manipulated.
Keeping you updated: you want to work with a person that will walk with you every step of the process, which is why you need an attorney that will be keen on updating you about the things that are happening and how your case is progressing. This gives you peace of mind, knowing that things are going well or that you are about to get rid of the legal issue once and for good.
To to do all that, you need to choose a well-educated attorney. A knowledgeable attorney will know more about the law and also appeals and anything else that can be used to protect the interest of their clients. Your attorney should also have in-depth knowledge about your rights and be willing to emphasize them when in court. He/she should also be willing and able to help you in your stressful condition.
Legal Defenses Against Charges for Indecent Exposure
Legal defense is the primary mandate of a criminal defense attorney. If you are facing charges for indecent exposure, it is vital to work with an attorney that is willing to take you through trial and defend the charges you are facing. Fortunately, there are several defense strategies that he/she can use to help lower your charges or have them dismissed. These defenses are covered below.
Lack of sufficient evidence
Lack of enough evidence may happen if the prosecutor is not able to prove all the elements of the crime as provided above. If for instance there is no one available to say that they were offended by your actions, or that part of your genitals was covered then the court might not be able to prove your case to convict you of the offense. Again, if there is no evidence that you acted lewdly, then the prosecutor might not be able to prove the case. If the evidence is not enough, the offender will not be guilty of the offense, and this automatically means that the charges will be dropped.
Like earlier mentioned, some people are accused falsely of sex crimes like indecent exposure. All sex crimes are usually disposed to false accusations. This could be because they typically require little evidence and that most of them are grounded on allegations. This makes it possible for a person to accuse another falsely to seek revenge. Other people accuse others out of jealousy or anger. An experienced criminal defense attorney will understand this well and will use it as a defense strategy to have your charges dropped.
A case of mistaken identity
It is possible for a person to mistakenly identify you as an offender without having any bad intentions against you. If for instance the indecent exposure act happened in the dark or the offender had their faces partially hidden, the victims may have a hard time pointing to the actual offender and may, in the process, lead to an innocent person without meaning to accuse them falsely. There are several reasons why this could happen, for instance, if you look like the actual offender or you live close to where the offense took place. In that case, your attorney will have to influence the jury of the fact that you are being mistaken for the actual offender.
California Indecent Exposure and Related Crimes
Several offenses in California are closely associated with Indecent Exposure maybe for the reason that they are regularly charged together or jointly with indecent exposure or because the offender's conduct can trigger the charges of any of these offenses. These related crimes include the following.
California Lewd Behavior in Public as provided under Section 647(a) of the state’s laws. This charge can arise when a person is accused of touching themselves indecently or indecently and publicly touching another person and with sexual intentions. The only difference between this offense and indecent exposure offense is touching; otherwise, all the other elements of the two offenses are the same.
If a person indecently expose themselves in public while touching themselves or a different person, they could face both charges of indecent exposure and lewd behavior in public. The latter is generally charged as a misdemeanor in the state and does not require the offender to get registered as a sex criminal for ten years at the minimum.
Lewd behavior with a minor as provided under Section 288 of California Statutes. This law makes it illegal for any person to engage in lewd behavior with a child under the age of 14, a minor between 14 and five years or a minor that is younger than their offender by no less than ten years. Just like lewd behavior in public, lewd conduct with a minor includes touching in its elements, which is what mainly differentiates it from California indecent exposure.
If a person exposes their genitals in the presence of a child while touching themselves or the minor, they could face both charges or indecent exposure and lewd conduct with a child.
Note than lewd behavior with a child is a more severe offense when compared to indecent exposure. The crime is generally a wobbler. If convicted as a felony, the offender may face jail time for a maximum of eight years in prison if the minor is a child of below 14 years.
Disturbing the public peace as provided under Section 415 of California Laws. This occurs when a person behaves in a manner that is offensive to the members of the public. Disturbing peace is, in most cases, taken to mean being loud, offensive or belligerent in public and does not relate to indecent exposure but it is usually used as a bargaining tool by criminal defense attorneys who want to bargain for more lenient charges for their clients. This is because disturbing the public peace is a more 'decent' offense and will not require the offender to list themselves as a sex criminal for years if found guilty.
Trespass as provided under Section 602 of California laws. Trespassing occurs when a person gains access to a house or another person’s property without authorization. Even if that person did not have the intention of committing a crime, they would still face charges of trespass if they entered the property without authorization. The crime of trespassing is mainly convicted as a misdemeanor. However, in the case of aggravated indecent exposure, whereby the offender entered another person's house or building to expose themselves indecently, the offender will face felony charges.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Sex crimes are severely punished in California, and this could mean hefty fines and a longer time behind bars. Sex offenders also face professional, personal, and social consequences that could affect other aspects of their life. If you are facing indecent exposure charges, it will help to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is a legal firm that is always ready and willing to take up similar cases and ensuring that the rights of people facing such charges are well protected. Call us at 310-564-2605 if you are in Los Angeles, California.