Defending Against Indecent Exposure Criminal Charges in California

Indecent exposure is a crime that is both serious and embarrassing in nature. The crime is defined as willfully exposing your genitals to another person with a desire to either sexually gratify yourself or offend the other individual. You might think that such an act, especially in today’s society, might result in a mere legal slap on the wrist. Well, think again. If you are convicted of indecent exposure in California, you are looking at fines, potential jail time, and guaranteed compulsory registration as a sex offender.

Got your attention now? Any conviction of indecent exposure in the state will require that you register as a California sex offender. As you can see, an indecent exposure charge is no laughing matter. The penalties for conviction are severe, especially as concerns your reputation in the community. Just think of the ramifications of a conviction on your career, education, family, and ability to peacefully coexist in your community. For your freedom and your reputation, you need an experienced California criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights and mount the strongest possible defense against the state prosecutor’s efforts to convict you.

Indecent Exposure is a Crime of Willfulness

To be convicted of indecent exposure in the state of California, you must willfully expose your genitals to another for the purpose of either sexually gratifying yourself or another or sexually offending someone. The word “willful” speaks to an intentional, purposeful act. In other words, you must intentionally expose your genitals to be charged with indecent exposure. So, if the exposure was truly an accident, you cannot be properly convicted of the crime. If your pants accidentally fall down, causing your genitals to become exposed, you cannot be properly convicted. If a gust of wind causes your skirt to fly up, causing your genitals to become exposed, you cannot be properly convicted. If you get a caught in a strong tide while swimming and, unbeknownst to you, it rips off your swimsuit and you walk back to the shore with your genitals exposed, you cannot be properly convicted.  

Note the explicit reference in the crime’s definition to “genitals.” The term genitals refers to a man’s penis and a woman’s vagina. Buttocks are not genitals. So, a willful exposure of the buttocks may not be prosecuted as indecent exposure. Such an act would more likely fall in the province of another crime – lewd conduct.

Beyond willfulness, the conduct must also be initiated for the purpose of either sexually gratifying yourself or another person, or offending the person to whom you are exposing your genitals.  In other words, the state will have to proved that you willfully exposed your genitals with one of the two purposes in mind. It does not matter whether or not you were successful in producing sexual gratification or offense – the mere attempt to do so is enough. Whatever the specifics, if you have been charged with the crime of indecent exposure, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney.