Indecent exposure is a violation of California Penal Code section 314. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant willfully exposed his or her genitals in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by the defendant’s actions;
2. When the defendant exposed himself or herself, he or she acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to his or her genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying himself or herself or another person, or sexually offending another person
Someone commits an act of indecent exposure when he or she willfully exposes his or genitals with the intent of directing public attention to his or her genitals. In the context of the indecent exposure statute, the defendant must expose him or herself with the intent of directing the attention of others. It is not required that bystanders actually see the defendant’s exposure, it is only required that the defendant engage in the requisite conduct. For example, a man who exposes his genitals to a passer by at a park who does not notice the display will likely be found guilty of indecent exposure. However, in a different scenario, a person on his way to a workout is unable to find a private place to change clothes after work decides to save time by changing clothes in the front seat of his car. A passerby accidently happens upon him while in the act of pulling his pants up. The witness sees his genitals while walking by the car. In this case, the defendant will likely be found not guilty because his intent was not to direct attention at his genitals in a sexual manner it was attributable to carelessness and bad timing thus lacking the requisite intent. It is important to note that the defendant must intend to direct attention to a third party to his or her genitals in a sexual manner. Changing clothes in an exposed area does not necessarily imply a sexual intent.
Most first-time indecent exposure offenders are charged with a misdemeanor offense. If convicted of "simple" misdemeanor indecent exposure, a defendant may face up to six months in a county jail with a maximum fine of one thousand dollars. A convicted offender will be required to register as a sex offender.
Under California law, a defendant may be charged and sentenced under the aggravating factors provision of the indecent exposure statute. A defendant may be found to engage in "aggravated" indecent exposure if the defendant exposes him or herself in an "inhabited" home, trailer, or building, after entering without permission. An aggravated indecent exposure may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Under misdemeanor, aggravated indecent exposure the defendant may be subjected to a maximum jail sentence one year. A felony aggravated indecent exposure conviction may result in sixteen months, two years or three years in the California State Prison, and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars, coupled with a lifetime duty to register as a sex offender.
Defenses to a charge of indecent exposure often involve challenging the intent element requiring that the defendant intentionally call attention to his or her genitals in a sexual manner. Often a defendant will lack the necessary intent requiring a sexual motivation. This is the case in situations where a defendant may be exposed for an innocent reason and is happened upon by a bystander. Another defense may be based on the identity of the offender who may have been mistaken due to the distracting nature of the crime. In either case, eyewitness testimony will largely dictate the success or failure of a defense.
Given the high risk involved with an indecent exposure charge, it is important to seek experienced counsel if you are the subject of an investigation or are detained by law enforcement. Regardless of whether or not the case proceeds to trial, the seriousness of a California indecent exposure charge requires the assistance of a skilled and committed California criminal lawyer who knows every legal argument when defending clients.
If you have been arrested for the crime of indecent exposure in the Visalia, California area, contact an expert criminal lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
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