Houman Fakhimi

Indecent Exposure

Indecent Exposure Defense Attorney

Indecent exposure is considered by many to be a minor crime. The state of California sees it far differently. In our state, it’s a sex crime and for those convicted of this crime, they could face a lifetime on the state’s sexual offender’s registry.

The indecent exposure attorneys at Fakhimi & Associates have successfully represented many Orange County, Riverside, and Southern California clients who face these serious charges, whether the charges ultimately become misdemeanors or felonies.

What are the Indecent Exposure Laws in California?

Technically, in order to be convicted of indecent exposure in a public or semi-public place, the defendant must have acted in a way designed to elicit arousal, either of the offender or another person. A person who accidentally exposes themselves say, at the beach or while having sex in a vehicle, shouldn’t be arrested for indecent exposure.

Unfortunately, law enforcement has been known to be overzealous about this kind of violation. A second offense can result in a felony charge that can land you in state prison. It’s important to not take these charges lightly. They can affect your future in ways you may not have considered. In order to ensure your legal rights and best interests are protected, you must hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Indecent exposure in public or semi-public place

Per California Penal Code 314, the crime of indecent exposure is characterized by the willful exposure of a person’s genitals to another person with the intention of either sexually gratifying oneself or sexually offending the other person.

Unfortunately, the statute is fairly vague and broad, which means people are sometimes arrested for this charge, even when they didn’t realize their actions were criminal.

Specifically, when we look at the term “indecent,” the meaning has evolved substantially over the last 150 years. What has remained virtually unchanged in that time is the language of the law.

Lewd conduct, per California Penal Code 647(a) is sometimes charged in place of or in conjunction with indecent exposure. Under this statute, this is a type of disorderly conduct charge that involves soliciting another person to engage in (or who actually engages in) “lewd or dissolute conduct” in a public place or anywhere open to the public or exposed to public view.

What Constitutes Indecent Exposure?
  • A man flashing his penis to teenage staffers at a drive-thru fast-food restaurant;
  • A woman revealing her vagina to passersby on a street corner.
  • All of these involve the intention to either sexually gratify.
What Doesn’t Constitute Indecent Exposure in California?
  • Breastfeeding a baby in public;
  • Urinating on the wall outside a sports bar;
  • A swimmer whose genitals are exposed when a strong wave pulls down his swimming trunks;
  • “Mooning” or flashing one’s bare butt to cameras at a sporting event.

These actions may be met with other charges, such as disorderly conduct. However, they do not qualify as indecent exposure because there is no sexual intent.

Why are the Indecent Exposure Laws so Confusing?

Part of the confusion comes from defining the purpose of sexual arousal. Urination in a public place is sometimes used to illustrate the confusion. Per the 1971 decision in Wainwright v. Procunier by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, urinating in public is not indecent exposure because it is clearly not done with the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or offending someone else.

It is likewise not indecent to expose one’s underwear (no matter how revealing).

California prosecutors must also show the act was “willful.” This means any accidental exposure should not be prosecuted.

On the other hand, an individual may be charged with aggravated indecent exposure if the exposure occurred in an inhabited home that was entered without permission. In that case, the charge can be filed either as a misdemeanor or a felony. The later will result in up to 3 years in lock-up, $10,000 in fines and a lifelong requirement to register as a sex offender.

If the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to one year in jail. It may also negatively affect a number of professional licenses.

What is the Defense for Indecent Exposure Charges?

Our Riverside & Orange County indecent exposure attorneys will work closely with you to ensure the details are covered. We then analyze your case to determine whether the actions meet the necessary criteria, what proof police have of those actions and whether that proof was properly obtained.

Some of the defenses that might be raised in an indecent exposure case include:

Indecent Exposure Defense Attorney
  • Mistaken identity is one defense. Law enforcement and even witnesses sometimes just get it wrong.
  • Lack of intention is another defense. You may not have even known anyone else was present or that it would offend that person.
  • Innocence is straightforward: you never exposed yourself as alleged.

Another possible defense might include closely examining the site of the alleged exposure. While the definition of the term “public” might seem fairly straightforward, the truth can be muddied by some factors. Keep in mind; the details matter when your future is at stake. There’s a reason why we’re the first choice for many Southern California defendants. The best defense is the one that leaves nothing open to interpretation.

Consider this: If a man exposes his genitals in a public park, this may be generally accepted as indecent. However, if the exposure occurred while he was crouching in tall grass or behind a large shrub, he might not have believed anyone could see him, and thus the exposure was not willful.

Securing experienced legal defense as early as possible in these cases can provide the best chance for a positive outcome. Your goal is to put a period at the end of this one moment in your life and move forward with no worries about it coming back to haunt you. Your one way of accomplishing this is choosing an indecent exposure attorney who can ensure your bases are covered. Contact us today to learn more about your rights and your options after a charge of indecent exposure.