In the State of California, indecent exposure is considered one of the “lesser” sex crimes—a misdemeanor for the first offense—but the ramifications of a conviction can haunt you for many years to come.
The penalties for a conviction depend on the circumstances of the offense and whether it is a first or subsequent offense. However, even a misdemeanor conviction requires you to register as a sex offender, which may affect the types of jobs you can hold and even where you're allowed to live.
California Penal Code 314 PC defines indecent exposure as when someone willfully exposes their naked body or genitals to another person or group of people who could be offended or annoyed in a public place.
The actual act of “exposing” has to be done with the intent to draw public attention to their genitals for sexual gratification or to offend another person. In other words, “intent” is a primary element of the crime in a PC 314 indecent exposure prosecution.
As noted, while indecent exposure is only a misdemeanor offense for a first conviction, it can still have potentially devastating consequences. For instance, a second offense could result in aggravated felony charges carrying up to three years in state prison.
Additionally, since indecent exposure is a sex crime, you might be ordered by the judge to register as a sex offender, and your name/address will remain on the registry for ten years. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic more closely below.
What is the Legal Definition of Indecent Exposure?
Under Penal Code 314 PC, indecent exposure is defined as “every person who willfully and lewdly, either exposes his person, or the private parts, in any public place or where other people are present to be offended or annoyed thereby.” Indecent exposure constitutes one of two activities:
- Willful exposure of one's body or genitalia in public in a way that may annoy or offend others who are present; or
- Participating in or organizing a public exhibition of such exposure with the intent of corrupting decency or evoking lewd thoughts and actions.
Indecent exposure does not include accidental nudity, the exposure of the female breast, or nudity that is not intended to be offensive.
Indecent exposure is purposefully exposing yourself in public when considered lewd, out of place, and not normal. Intentional exposure of private body parts, when it seems offensive and against the standards of decency in public, could be prosecuted as the sexual-related offense of indecent exposure.
Breakdown of Penalties for Indecent Exposure
The consequences of an indecent exposure conviction vary from minor fines and probation to several years in prison, depending on the circumstances and whether it's a first or subsequent offense.
Simple Indecent Exposure (First Offense)
In and of itself, indecent exposure in California constitutes a misdemeanor for a first offense, the maximum penalty for which is a fine of up to $1000 and 6 months in county jail.
In some instances, an attorney may be able to get sentencing reduced to probation, so you don't serve any jail time. There is also a potential 10-year minimum registration as a sex offender
under PC 290. If the victim was a minor, the penalties are the same.
Indecent Exposure (Second and Subsequent Offenses)
After the first conviction, any subsequent indecent exposure charges are automatically escalated to a felony. If convicted, the penalty is a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 3 years in state prison for each offense. Further, there is mandatory PC 290 sex offender registration. You are considered a repeat offender in this situation, and the penalties will substantially increase.
Aggravated Indecent Exposure
You can be charged with aggravated indecent exposure if your improper actions occur in an inhabited home, trailer, or building or if you enter the building without permission for this purpose.
This is a “wobbler” offense, which may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor offense carries a similar penalty as that of simple indecent exposure, except that the maximum jail time is extended from 6 months to one year. For a felony conviction, the penalty is up to $10,000 in fines and up to 3 years in prison.
Sex Offender Registry Requirement
Regardless of the severity of your sentence, the issue that can have a lasting impact on your life is that indecent exposure is a sex crime—and as such, you will be required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC.
Indecent exposure (misdemeanor or felony) is considered a Tier-1 offense (the lowest tier), which places you on the sex offender registry for a minimum of 10 years. While the requirement
remains in effect, you register with local law enforcement within five business days of any of the following:
- Your release from incarceration;
- Your sentencing (if no jail time is required);
- Your release from a hospital or mental institution;
- Moving to a new place of residence.
In addition, you will have to renew your registration every year within five business days of your birthday while the registration requirement is in effect. If you don't have a permanent place of residence, you'll be required to renew your registration every 30 days as a transient.
Suppose you enroll as a student or take employment at any California college or university. In that case, you must register with the campus police within five days of arriving—and notify them again within five days of leaving.
Failing to keep your registration current with the sex offender registry is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail if your original offense was a misdemeanor or up to 3 years in prison if your original offense was a felony.
Restrictions on Where You Live or Work
Due to the sex offender registration requirement, a conviction for indecent exposure may also impact where you're allowed to live or work. Since “Jessica's Law” was declared unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in 2015, there are no more “predator-free zones” around schools or parks.
However, judges may still restrict defendants from living near schools or parks on a case-by-case basis. And while most employers are not allowed to use the sex offender registry to discriminate against those who have served their time, they can still deny you employment if (a) they demonstrate that they are protecting a “person at risk” or (b) if another law prohibits them from hiring you (e.g., schools cannot hire people convicted of sex crimes).
If you have been charged with PC 314 indecent exposure, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime to obtain a conviction. Perhaps you didn't violate every provision under the law, such as the act was not in a public place to be seen by other people that could have been offended. Perhaps there was no intent for sexual gratification.
Contact our law firm to review the defenses to avoid the severe penalties listed above. Eisner Gorin LLP is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense law firm representing people across Southern California. You can reach us for an initial consultation by calling (310) 328-3776 or filling out our contact form.