California “Indecent Exposure” Law – Penal Code 314 PC

May 18, 2015

In California, penal code 314 pc makes it a misdemeanor for any person to “willfully and lewdly” do either of the following:

  • Expose his or her private parts in a public place or place where there are others to be offended or annoyed.
  • Procure, counsel, or assist another to engage in this self-exposure, or take part in a model artist exhibition, or make any other public exhibition of his or her person that offends decency, or is “adapted to excite to vicious or lewd thoughts or acts.”[1]

Noticeably, the statute makes it a crime for someone to actually engage in the act of exposing themselves or enticing someone else to expose themselves. Furthermore, while a conviction requires exposure of their genitals in the presence of another, there is no concomitant requirement that the other person sees the exposed genitals. Indecent exposure if characterized as a sex crime could carry a sentence of having to register as a sex offender.

To prove you are guilty of indecent exposure, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You willfully exposed your genitals in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by your action(s);
  2. You acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to your genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying yourself or another person or to sexually offend another.[2]

Defending Indecent Exposure Charges in California

A specific intent to engage in naked self-exposure is an essential element of the offense. For instance, this crime is not violated when a person “mooned” oncoming traffic on the ground that the act was not sexually motivated.[3] Another example includes a person disrobing for the purpose of sunbathing. Although this constitutes intentional self-exposure within the meaning of PC 314, however, a person does not expose their private parts unless it is sexually motivated. Furthermore, another defense may include that you did not act willfully in exposing yourself, and instead, it was the product of someone perhaps ripping your shirt or clothing that resulted in the public exposure of your genitals. The law requires that you commit an act by doing it willingly or on purpose.

Punishment & Sentencing for PC 314

Indecent exposure under penal code 314 is ordinarily a misdemeanor. But it is a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, 2, or 3 years, if you were previously convicted of indecent exposure or lewd acts with a child under PC 288. However, a prior conviction for attempted indecent exposure will not qualify as a prior conviction triggering the recidivist provision. A conviction for a misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been charged with indecent exposure, then the penalties can be severe if convicted. It is critical that you retain an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney to defend your rights. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today to schedule a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

Legal References:

[1] Penal Code 314 provides, “Every person who willfully and lewdly, either:

  1. Exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby; or,
  2. Procures, counsels, or assists any person so to expose himself or take part in any model artist exhibition, or to make any other exhibition of himself to public view, or the view of any number of persons, such as is offensive to decency, or is adapted to excite to vicious or lewd thoughts or acts, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Every person who violates subdivision 1 of this section after having entered, without consent, an inhabited dwelling house, or trailer coach as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, or the inhabited portion of any other building, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or in the county jail not exceeding one year.

Upon the second and each subsequent conviction under subdivision 1 of this section, or upon a first conviction under subdivision 1 of this section after a previous conviction under Section 288, every person so convicted is guilty of a felony, and is punishable by imprisonment in state prison.”

[2] See CALCRIM No. 1160 –

[3] See In re Dallas W. (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 937 – holding that the indecent exposure statute was not violated by the act of a minor who “mooned” incoming traffic on the ground that his acts were not sexually motivated.

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