Indecent Exposure

Sex crimes including indecent exposure are among the crimes that society finds least sympathetic and most morally repugnant, and as such they carry an incredible stigma that can follow you forever. Even more than other crimes, some of which may technically be more serious on paper, indecent exposure and other sex crimes have the potential to negatively impact your career, personal life, finances, and reputation for an entire lifetime.

The consequences of a conviction for indecent exposure include time behind bars, hefty fines, and perhaps worst of all, registration in California’s publicly searchable sex offender database that can make you an outcast at work, in your neighborhood, and wherever you move for years to come. In order to avoid the damage to your life wrought by these drastic consequences, it is imperative that you contact an experienced sex crimes defense attorney right away to develop the best plan for your unique situation.


Criminal Defense Attorney for Indecent Exposure in Ventura, CA

Jay Leiderman is an experienced sex crimes lawyer who has tried cases involving everything from petty theft to murder in both state and federal court. He is among the less than 1% of California lawyers to be board-certified as a Criminal Law specialist, making him part of an elite within an already prestigious and difficult profession.

Jay Leiderman Law represents clients in Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oxnard, and across Ventura County, including in Moorpark, Ojai, Camarillo, Fillmore, Port Hueneme, and Santa Paula. Don’t let an indecent exposure charge follow you around for life – call (805) 654-0200 today for a free, confidential consultation.


Overview of Indecent Exposure Law in California


What is Indecent Exposure?

Indecent Exposure is forbidden by California Penal Code 314 PC, a very old statute with essentially the same wording as when it was first drafted in 1872. Because it is so old, a plain reading of the statute can seem vague and confusing, but this law has been interpreted over the years by California courts in order to determine what the crime actually requires.

Indecent exposure means to willfully expose your bare genitals in the presence of someone who might be annoyed or offended and for the purpose of sexual gratification or offending another, with the intent of drawing attention to those genitals. The exposure must be willful, i.e. done on purpose, not accidental – a “wardrobe malfunction” does not make you guilty of indecent exposure.

The genitals you expose must be bare, not clothed, and female breasts do not count. The exposure must take place around somebody who might be offended or annoyed, i.e. not in private or a secluded area where no one can see. This must also be done with the intent to draw attention to your genitals. Finally, you must have a sexually motivated or offensive intent, i.e. to arouse yourself or someone else, or to offend someone.

The numerous elements of an indecent exposure charge make it possible to come up with many potential defenses, since the prosecution must show that all of the above requirements have been met. If one or more elements cannot be demonstrated by the prosecution, you are not guilty of the crime of indecent exposure. For example, your exposure might not have been done on purpose, or you may not have had a sexual or lewd intent. An experienced attorney will be able to pinpoint the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and strategize accordingly.


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Penalties for Indecent Exposure

Most indecent exposure cases involving first offenders will be prosecuted as simple misdemeanors, carrying county jail time up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. Anyone convicted will also have a duty to register as a “tier one” sex offender with regular periods of renewal for a minimum of 10 years.

An indecent exposure charge can be considered aggravated and therefore subject to sentencing enhancement if you entered, without permission, any inhabited building. Under these circumstances, the prosecutor can choose to charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged with misdemeanor aggravated indecent exposure, the potential jail time increases to up to one year. If charged as a felony, you face sixteen months, two years, or three years in state prison, a fine up to $10,000, as well as addition to the sex offender registry. You may also face other separate charges for entering a building illegally, such as trespassing or burglary.

For anyone previously convicted of indecent exposure, a new charge will automatically be considered a felony. This will subject you to the same range of time in state prison and the same fine amount as listed in the preceding paragraph for felonies.

Aside from the obvious criminal penalties already listed, many serious consequences of an indecent exposure conviction are intangible or indirect. Sex crimes are highly stigmatized and are likely to permanently damage your reputation, professional licensing, career prospects, housing opportunities, interpersonal relationships, and more.

If convicted in a felony-level indecent exposure case, your gun ownership and voting rights will also be suspended. Finally, lack of compliance with the sex offender registration requirements can generate additional charges for Penal Code 290 PC, failure to register as a sex offender. It is critical to consult with an experienced sex crimes defense attorney immediately to minimize the damage and fight the charges against you.


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Pleading to Lesser Crimes and Related Charges

In order to gain bargaining power in negotiating a plea deal, prosecutors will often overcharge defendants with multiple related crimes or charge them with the most serious version of a crime (even if they think they won’t actually be able to get a conviction for all of them). The most favorable outcome is to be adjudicated not guilty or have the charges dismissed outright, but since the consequences for indecent exposure are so severe, plea deals for lesser charges are sometimes worth considering if the risk of conviction at trial is high.

Indecent exposure cases are commonly pled down to “lewd conduct in public” under Penal Code 647(a) PC. This crime happens when someone touches himself or another person in public for sexual gratification. Lewd conduct in public is a misdemeanor, but unlike indecent exposure, carries no sex offender registration requirement. A skilled lawyer can assist you in obtaining plea deals that eliminate the need to register and generally reduce the overall penalties you face.


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Additional Resources

California Department of Justice, Crime in California 2018 – Here is a link to a PDF with crime statistics for 2018. Statistics show that there are around 1,500 indecent exposure arrests a year in California. You can also compare the data to the figures for other sex crimes.

California Megan’s Law WebsiteThe sex offender registry is located here. You can find information about the registration requirements for sex offenders. The database is also searchable by name, address, county, zip code, etc.


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Ventura Indecent Exposure Lawyer

Being accused of a sex crime that carries time behind bars and public disclosure of your information on the sex offender registry can be very frightening. During this difficult time, you want an experienced sex crimes defense attorney by your side to come up with specific defenses to the prosecution’s case and fight for the best outcome possible.

Jay Leiderman Law has successfully defended a variety of sex crimes and has the knowledge and skill necessary to fight effectively for you. Call (805) 654-0200 today for a free, confidential consultation and together we can devise a strategy based on the unique facts of your case.


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