Indecent exposure sounds like a minor crime, but it is actually a very serious offense that can result in your being labeled a sex offender. If you have been accused of indecent exposure in San Diego, contact a top criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to start building a defense against these charges.
What is Indecent Exposure in California?
California Penal Code section 314 (PC) describes indecent exposure as the willful showing of a person’s genitals to someone who could be offended or annoyed by the display for the purpose of sexual gratification or offending someone else. To put it in layman’s terms, this means you exposed your private parts to someone to either arouse yourself or someone else or to offend the viewer.
Is Breastfeeding Indecent Exposure?
While opponents of public breastfeeding sometimes argue that it should be considered a form of indecent exposure, it has been expressly protected under California law since 1997, when it was codified under Civil Code, Section 43.3 (Civ). This law states that women have the right to breastfeed in any public or private place they and the child are authorized to be, meaning a woman can breastfeed both at the beach or inside a Wal-Mart. Even the property owner of an establishment cannot stop the mother regardless of the business owner’s personal feelings.
Even without 43.3 (Civ) though, breastfeeding would not be considered indecent exposure as it is not done to attract attention to a woman’s genitals (many women try to minimize their exposed areas and try to divert attention away from their breasts). Similarly, it is not done for sexual arousal, as an insult, or to offend others. Breastfeeding is done for the pure and noble purpose of feeding an infant or toddler and therefore is not indecent exposure by any stretch of the term.
Penalties for Indecent Exposure in San Diego
This crime is only a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and $1,000 in fines. But the bigger problem is that it is a sex crime requiring mandatory registration on the sex offender list for a minimum of ten years, even after serving your entire sentence. Sex offender registration requires you to have your name, criminal offense, and address publicly listed online for anyone to see. For this reason, you absolutely do not want to be convicted of this offense. Additionally, a second conviction for indecent exposure is a felony that may result in a state prison sentence and an additional 20 years on the sex offender list.
Aggravated Indecent Exposure
Although most charges under 314 (PC) involve a person exposing themselves in public, if someone enters an inhabited dwelling, including a home, apartment, or trailer, without permission before showing their exposed genitals, they will face aggravated indecent exposure charges. These sex crimes are more serious and can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor this offense is punishable by up to a year in jail, but as a felony, it is punishable by up to 3 years in prison. If you are convicted of aggravated indecent exposure, you will still need to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
Fighting 314 (PC) Charges
For the prosecution to convict you of indecent exposure, they must prove that you 1) willfully exposed your genitals 2) in the presence of another person 3) with the specific intent to bring attention to your genitals 4) for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexually insulting another person, or offending someone. As you might imagine, it can often be challenging for the prosecution to prove all of these factors of the offense.
The prosecution of these offenses often involves defense attorneys arguing their client was a victim of mistaken identity because the crimes often happen so quickly. Intent can be a critical component of these cases as well. Many people arrested for streaking or public urination are charged with indecent exposure when the intent was either a bit of light-hearted fun or to relieve oneself. A San Diego indecent exposure attorney can work to uncover witnesses, psychologists, and more to show that you did not expose your genitals in a sexual or intentionally offensive manner, even if there is no disputing your identity.
In some cases, your lawyer may work to have the charges reduced to lewd conduct in public, filed under Penal Code Section 647(a) (PC). Lewd conduct carries the same criminal penalties but does not require you to go on the sex offender registry. In many cases, these two charges may be filed together, and your best option will be to plead down to only the lewd conduct charges. For example, people caught having sex at nude beaches are commonly prosecuted for both indecent exposure and lewd conduct. Those accused of two offenses need a highly experienced criminal defense attorney to help fight any and all charges related to their arrest.
If you have any questions or want to schedule a free consultation with a top San Diego indecent exposure attorney, please call (760) 643-4050.