Indecent Exposure Charges Have Serious Consequences - Why You Need A California Criminal Defense Attorney
Exposing yourself inappropriately in California is against the law. There are indecent exposure laws which fall under the sex crimes category when one has been found guilty of revealing his or her private parts in a public area. If you or someone you know has been charged with indecent exposure, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately as consequences for a conviction of this nature can be severe and long-lasting.
Explanation of California Penal Code 314
California Penal Code, chapter 8 defines indecent exposure, obscene exhibitions, bawdy and other disorderly actions. In order for the prosecution to convict you of such a crime, they must prove several elements. Under the heading for chapter 8, a person must have:
- Exposed their private areas of the body in a public area, or an area where other people were present and annoyed or offended by the action
- Helped another person to expose themselves, taken part in a model artist exhibit, or made any other form of a public exhibition to any number of people which was viewed as offensive or lewd, or attempted to achieve sexual gratification or arousal
The threshold for convicting you of such acts hinges on the fact that you performed these actions willfully. Prosecution does not have to find you guilty of being fully unclothed, only that your private parts were in full view of those around you.
Under this law, you must have been charged with exposure in a public area. This area can be one where people pass or walk by, or if you've entered a private dwelling without invitation that others inhabited and performed an unwanted display.
Penalties for an Indecent Exposure Conviction
If convicted of Indecent Exposure under California law, you can face serious consequences. As a first time offender, you may receive a misdemeanor conviction. This conviction could result in you being sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a county jail or state prison for up to one year.
- A misdemeanor under California law is defined as a crime where the punishment if convicted is no more than one year inside a county jail or state prison. The misdemeanor is considered more serious than an infraction of the law but is not as serious as a felony conviction.
- A felony conviction in California results in the maximum sentence possible and can even be punishable by death. Receiving a felony conviction could also result in up to $10,000 in fines.
As a second-time offender of indecent exposure or if you've been convicted of other sex crimes, you could face a felony conviction. This conviction is treated with much more severely and punishment could result in prison time as well as having to register yourself as a Sex Offender in the state registry.
If convicted of misdemeanor and in violation of Penal Code 314, you are facing a maximum sentence of six months in a county jail. There may also be a fine of up to $ 1,000 plus the request to register on the Sex Offender Registry.
If convicted of a felony and in violation of Penal Code 672, you could be facing a prison sentence of sixteen months to three years. Under this code, you could face additional fines up to $10,000 and will receive the lifetime requirement to register on the California Sex Offender Registry.
What it Means to Register as a Sex Offender in California
Having to register as a sex offender in California is a lifetime requirement. Under California Penal Code 290, you will be required to disclose where ever you move for the rest of your life unless legal relief is granted.
As a registered sex offender, your entire life is impacted. The community where you live will see your registration and know you are on this list making your reputation questionable and you untrustworthy. The registration can affect your employment and require that you stay away from public areas such as schools, and possibly parks.
This registration will impact your quality of life for years if not the rest of your life which makes it imperative to seek legal counsel as soon as you are charged. You will want to plead your case in court with the experienced help of an attorney who understands California law and knows their way through the court system.
Defending a Charge of Indecent Exposure in California
There are several defenses against indecent exposure charges available to you. Your criminal defense attorney will guide you through the process to ensure your rights are protected. One defense is your First Amendment right to perform an artistic expression as long as there was not an obscene intent or value. Your attorney would prove that your expression of art was not an intention to be obscene or to offend others but to merely make an artistic statement.
With an indecent exposure charge, your attorney may be able to follow the 'guilty mind' or 'mens rea' theory with your case. This theory supports the difference between what you were thinking at the time of the event and what your intentions were for your actions. It is basically the difference between whether or not your intentions when setting out for the event were to commit a crime or were the actions unintentional.
An example of 'guilty mind' theory would be if you and a friend set out one day and ended up in a public park. During the course of a conversation, the two of you begin talking about a recent surgery performed on your private parts. To show your friend what you were talking about in regards to the procedure, you expose those private areas just as a mother and her two young children pass. The mother, of course, would become alarmed and report you to the authorities for indecent exposure. Your actions were not intended as a means of public display, and your defense attorney can prove you did not intentionally break any laws to the court.
On the other hand of 'guilty mind' it would have to be proved that you intended to show not only your friend those private parts, but everyone visiting the park that day. Even though you were having a private conversation with your friend, your actions to demonstrate that conversation annoyed or offended others intentionally.
The prosecution will have to prove you actually exposed your private areas. If you only revealed part of your body and undergarments were covering the private parts, you, in fact, did not commit indecent exposure. The prosecution will also have to prove you were in a public area where it was intended uninvited viewers see your exposure. They must show you willfully expected others not from your group be exposed to your private parts.
Cases of mistaken identity occur often. If you are in a public area, it is entirely possible someone accused you of an act you did not commit. You may be charged with indecent exposure by accident due to poor vision by another. Your defense attorney will help you prove your innocent by introducing evidence to show the victim's perception of what happened is not reliable.
Other false accusations occur when another becomes vengeful or angry with you over personal matters such as a divorce, break-up of a romantic relationship or other personal issues. They may attempt to hurt you through legal repercussions associated with an indecent exposure conviction. Your criminal defense attorney will help you sort through these statements to prove your innocent and make sure your legal record is not damaged.
Statute of Limitations on Indecent Exposure Charges
If you've been charged with indecent exposure under Penal Code 314 more than one year after the event occurred, the District Attorney cannot charge you. Your criminal defense attorney can file that Statue of Limitations has run out and inform the prosecution they are procedurally barred from charging you.
If the charge is being filed as a felony indecent exposure under Penal Code 314(2), the prosecution then has up to three years from the date of the event to bring criminal charges against you. After the three year time-limit, the Statue of Limitations would then prevent them from filing charges.
What is Considered Lewd Conduct in Public?
California Penal Code 647(a) states it is an offense to engage in 'lewd' conduct while in a public area. This area is defined as one where people are open to enter when they choose. You cannot touch your private parts, or those of another while in these public areas and others are able to observe and be offended by the scene.
You cannot touch your private areas with the intent to reach sexual gratification while in a public area, and you cannot solicit someone to join you in this form of behavior. While the laws are still somewhat vague on this issue in California, it is becoming enough of a concern in today's world for criminal charges to follow what others may perceive as lewd conduct.
An example may be where a man and woman go to a bar in the evening for cocktails. During the course of the evening, the woman flashes her chest at the man in an attempt to sexually excite him. Though the event was personal between the two of them, it was performed in a public bar and she could then be charged with a lewd act in a public place.
Mooning has been a long time joke performed when another feels like playing a prank on someone. This act of 'mooning' (showing one's buttocks) is now a serious charge. If you should be caught mooning another, there are serious consequences under California law.
What is Aggravated Indecent Exposure?
Indecent exposure charges can become even more serious if filed as 'aggravated'. This form of exposure occurs when someone enters a home or structure owned by another without their permission. If after entering this dwelling, an indecent exposure occurs, the person will be charged with aggravated indecent exposure resulting in more serious sentencing and penalties.
Can Your Attorney Settle A Case of Indecent Exposure Out of Court?
It is essential to settle the charges against you for indecent exposure as soon as possible. You need to contact your criminal defense attorney at your earliest chance in hopes the case can be reduced in charges or dismissed altogether.
Having an attorney working with you that understands criminal law and the laws of California specifically will help you investigate these charges and negotiate on your behalf to settle this case before it is sent to court. Even should there be no dismissal of the charges, your attorney can work with the prosecution to significantly reduce them to lessen the more serious consequences.
Is It Necessary to Have Legal Representation for Indecent Exposure Charges?
Your best chance of protecting your future and your quality of life depends on good legal representation against indecent exposure charges. Your attorney will understand the importance of early intervention and how it can change the outcome of your possible conviction.
One example of a person being charged with an indecent exposure that could have affected the rest of his life was when he could not find a local restroom soon enough and decided to relieve himself beside a tree. He intended to quickly and quietly relieve himself without notice but was surprised when a mother and her young child walked by the tree. Before he could cover himself, the child observed his private part which she pointed out to her mother. The mother was offended and told the authorities of his action along with the license number of the car he got into.
Police arrested him by tracking his license number, but by him contacting his criminal defense attorney before charges were filed, he was given a chance to negotiate the case. Explaining his actions and the fact that there was no intent to offend, his attorney was able to plead the case to a lesser offense which did not include a sex offense, and he was able to walk away with just a small fine. Without the help of his attorney, he could have faced jail time and the requirement to file with the State Sex Offender Registry.
What You Should Do If Arrested for Indecent Exposure
The first thing you should know about being arrested is you don't want to talk before you've consulted with your attorney. Give authorities your name and address and then request your attorney be present before answering any further questions.
Generally, if the police are questioning you about an incident, they are attempting to gain information from you that will be held against you. An example of this with an indecent exposure charge is someone may have reported a vehicle like yours in their area, and they witnessed someone was performing an indecent or lewd action.
The police will trace what information they've been given to you and with certain forms of questioning, they can get you to admit to an act you were never even aware of happening. Should an act have occurred in your vehicle that someone misunderstood, they cannot prove the act without an admission from you that your vehicle and you were at the location. If they get an admission from you that your car was there and you were the person inside, they can arrest you without any other facts.
You need legal representation as soon as questioning begins regarding an illegal action. You have rights to a lawyer and the right to remain silent, and you should take advantage of these rights until your attorney gives you legal advice on the situation.
Contacting an Experience Indecent Exposure Defense Attorney Near Me?
Defending your rights, freedom, and quality of life against indecent exposure begins with experienced criminal defense. Leah Legal Criminal Defense Law knows California law and their way through the court system. They have been serving the Los Angeles and Southern California area for years and provide excellent legal representation and advice.
If you've been charged with indecent exposure or any other criminal activity contact our Los Angeles criminal attorney at 818-484-1100 to receive the best chance of getting a positive outcome with your case. Check through the website to ask questions regarding your case or to schedule an appointment to meet with them today.
You could be facing long-term and potentially severe consequences if convicted under California law. Leah Legal knows and understands the Penal Codes and is ready to fight with you to protect your future.