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California's Sex Crime of Indecent Exposure – Penal Code 314

Posted by Alan Eisner | Jul 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Penal Code Section 314 defines the California sex crime of “indecent exposure.” Based on the statutory definition, indecent exposure is the crime of exposing one's genitals in the presence of someone who might be offended or annoyed thereby when done in such a way that the defendant intends public attention to be drawn to their genitals either to sexually gratify the defendant, to sexually gratify someone else, or to sexually offend someone else.

As we can see already, whether or not certain conduct falls under Penal Code Section 314 depends in significant part on the defendant's intent. 

Simply exposing genitals in a place where another individual will see them is not sufficient to sustain a conviction for indecent exposure under California law.

Normally, a first PC 314 indecent exposure conviction is a misdemeanor crime that carries penalties of up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A second offense is a felony that could carry time in a California state prison.

A Penal Code 314 conviction could also carry a mandatory registration as a Tier one California sex offender.

To give readers a better understanding on the sex crime of PC 314 indecent exposure, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove for a Conviction?

CALCRIM 1160 - California criminal jury instructions contain the "elements of the crime" for a PC 314 convicton. As a threshold matter, a violation of Section 314 must be willful. This exempts a whole category of situations in which someone's genitals may become exposed in public unintentionally. 

If someone suffers an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction or is the subject of a cruel prank and their genitals become exposed, they are not guilty of indecent exposure.

The genitals referenced in Section 314 must be either male or female genitals, not simply other parts of the naked body. 

Neither the male nor female breasts qualify under Section 314. Likewise, revealing underwear whether on a male or female defendant qualify. The genitals must be fully revealed to form the basis of a prosecution under Section 314.

In the presence of someone who could be annoyed or offended 

The next requirement is that the genitals be exposed in the presence of someone who might be annoyed or offended.

This is an objective, rather than a subjective, standard. Therefore, proof that the person who viewed the genitals was not in fact subjectively annoyed is no defense under Section 314. 

If a reasonable person in the victim's position would have been annoyed or offended, the charge can be sustained.

This also has the interesting effect that proving the individual who viewed the genitals was an undercover police officer, who could plausibly be said to be hoping to observe a crime rather than being annoyed by observing one, is no defense. 

This is a similar outcome as under the prostitution statute, in which a defendant can be guilty of solicitation where the “prostitute” is a police officer who has no subjective intent to engage in a commercial sex act with the defendant.

Intent to direct public attention to your genitals 

This element leads directly into the next, which is that the defendant intends to draw public attention to their genitals. 

This excludes situations where a defendant, for example, is attempting to urinate in a location which they believe is secluded enough but unfortunately a bystander observes their genitals and is annoyed or offended.

The defendant has satisfied the preceding elements, but lacked intent to draw public intention. 

In fact, in this hypothetical the defendant's intent is exactly the opposite; to avoid public attention.  The defendant is therefore not guilty under Section 314.

Purpose of sexual gratification or sexual offending 

Finally, the prosecution must establish that the intentional drawing of attention to the genitals was done for the purpose of either sexual gratification or to offend someone else sexually. 

This final intent requirement removes from Section 314's coverage cases such as a juvenile who “moons” a passing car for the purpose of simply annoying or being rude to passers-by but who lacks any sexually-related intent. 

This is likely a narrow series of cases as the prosecution can prove circumstantially that most exposures of genitals in public have some relation to the sexual desires of either the defendant or the victim.

Related California Offenses for Penal Code 314

Penal Code 288 – Lewd conduct with a minor Penal Code 647(a) – Lewd conduct in public Penal Code 415 – Disturbing the peace Penal Code 602 - Trespassing

Penalties for a PC 314 Indecent Exposure Conviction

As stated, penalties for a first-time conviction for Section 314 include up to six months in county jail, a fine, and a 10-year minimum registration as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290. 

A first-time offense for indecent exposure is always a misdemeanor. Aggravated violations of Section 314 include those which occur in an inhabited dwelling place where the defendant entered without permission. 

These violations can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, which is commonly called a "wobbler."  The misdemeanor penalties include up to a year in county jail whereas the felony penalties include 16 months, two years, or three years in the state prison as well as the sex offender registration described above. 

In the case of repeat offenders under Section 314, or those with a prior conviction under Penal Code Section 288, the felony penalties listed above apply and the case must be charged as a felony. 

A second or subsequent conviction for indecent exposure is not a wobbler which can be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Fighting PC 314 Indecent Exposure Charges

There are a various legal defenses to a California Penal Code 314 indecent exposure charge that an experienced criminal defense attorney could use on your behalf. 

We might be able to argue there is insufficient evidence for the prosecutor to obtain a conviction. Perhaps there was no one around for you to offend or your genitals were partially covered.

We might also be able to argue the allegations against you are false. It's not uncommon for someone to be falsely accused of a sex offense because they don't require a lot of proof. Perhaps the accuser is motived by anger or jealously.

If you, or someone you know, has been arrested for, is charged with, or is under investigation for a violation of Penal Code Section 314, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Contact our office at (310) 328-3776.

About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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