Posted on May 18, 2015

California P.C. § 314: Indecent Exposure

California’s indecent exposure laws can carry consequences such as having to publicly register as a sex offender. In fact, the law does require another person actually see the exposed genitals. However, this statute is open for interpretation and subject to a number of defenses. Indeed, if one is merely expressing themselves in an artistic fashion, it may trigger a free speech right affording protection under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. For a first time offender, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor offense but can be charged as a felony depending on whether one was previously convicted of this same offenses or an offense listed in P.C. § 288. To be clear, this offense does not require one to actually be the individual to expose themselves, but one can be charged with this offense simply by enticing or counseling another to unlawfully expose themselves. Since indecent exposure is labeled as a sex offense, it’s imperative one hire a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at the earliest possible stages. With all criminal accusations, the best approach towards an effective defense is early intervention by a criminal defense attorney.

In California, indecent exposure is formally defined under P.C. § 314 which 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 act is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

If one suffers from a prior conviction under this statute, or unlawfully exposes themselves in an inhabited dwelling, the charge then becomes a wobbler offense. Note however that an inhabited dwelling does not require a person to be present at the time of the offense but only that someone uses it as a dwelling. A wobbler is a crime that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. The prosecutor holds discretion to charge someone with either a felony or misdemeanor. Fortunately, if you suffer from a wobbler conviction, you may be eligible to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor after successful completion of your probation. If one suffers from a prior conviction listed under Penal Code § 288, the indecent exposure charge automatically elevates and becomes a straight felony and consequently one is subject to a state prison sentence which cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Elements of the Crime

According to CALCRIM 1160, in order for someone to be found guilty of indecent exposure, the prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Defendant willfully exposure his or her genitals in the presence of another person or person who might be offended or annoyed by the defendant’s actions

2. Defendant 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

AND [If defendant is charged with entering an inhabited dwelling]

3. The willful and lewd exposure occurred after the defendant had entered an inhabited building or trailer without consent.

What are the Legal Defenses to Indecent Exposure?

• You did not act willfully but perhaps the accident was made negligently or accidently. CALCRIM 1160 provides that someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. However, the prosecutor is not required to prove you intended to hurt someone else or gain any advantage.

• You did not intend to receive any public attention by your act.

• You did not intend to sexually arouse or sexually gratify another

• You were lawfully acting pursuant to the First Amendment of the United State Constitution

• You had lawful consent to enter the dwelling of another

• You are being falsely accused by another

What is the Punishment for Indecent Exposure?

The punishment for an indecent exposure conviction can vary depending upon whether one was convicted under this statute to a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted as a misdemeanor, the maximum punishment is the county jail is one year. Additionally, substantial court fines and sex counseling may be imposed. Furthermore, the court usually orders a three year probation term. If convicted as a felony, consequently one faces time in California state prison anywhere in between 16 months, 2, or 3 years. Having a conviction as either a felony or misdemeanor may carry one to public register as a sex offender.

Indecent Exposure Expungement

California contains P.C. § 1203.4 otherwise known as an expungement where if certain conditions have been met, and a defendant was not sentenced to state prison, they may be entitled to dismiss their conviction. The process consists of filing a petition seeking a judgment determining you are statutorily rehabilitated. If successful, the law will release you from all liabilities and penalties as a result of the conviction. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for further information concerning your eligibility.

Examples

Dan was a resident in the county of Los Angeles and decided to play a joke on his neighbors. Previously, Dan and his neighbor’s relations dissolved over substantial arguments over the years. Dan consumed a substantial amount of alcohol and stripped his clothes off. He then proceeded to run through his neighbor’s home in an effort to annoy them. Little did Dan realize, his neighbors had moved out of state and no longer reside in the home. An LAPD police officer observed Dan committing the act and arrested him under felony charges of indecent exposure. In this case, Dan would not be guilty of indecent exposure as to a felony because the home in which he invaded was not being resided by anyone since his neighbor’s had moved away. The law requires that the structure be a place of habitation, and in this case, the home was vacant.

Betty was out with her friend in downtown Los Angeles celebrating this year’s Mardi Gras celebration. She and a few friends had consumed alcohol while having a good time in the streets. While in front of a large crowd, and without Betty’s consent, Paula grabbed Betty’s shirt and pulled so hard it tore exposing Betty’s breasts to a group of persons who celebrated the exposure. A police officer observed the act and arrested Betty for indecent exposure. In this case, Betty would not be guilty of indecent exposure because she did not willfully expose herself to another person. Instead, the exposure was done by the act of her friend Paula.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with indecent exposure, contact Los Angeles Sex Crimes Defense Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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