Defining Indecent Exposure

by Legal Author on March 28, 2013

A lot of individuals don’t think that indecent exposure is a serious crime. In fact, some even believe that this is amusing. But to consider this type of activity as “just a joke” is a mistake. For one, indecent exposure can lead to mental or emotional trauma, and this can even lead to more serious sex crimes.

1. What is indecent exposure?

When you hear the term “indecent exposure,” what comes to mind? Do you picture a man running naked across a football field during halftime as some sort of prank? Well, this is one type, which is known as “streaking.” Another one is called “flashing” where the genitals or breasts are quickly exposed. Those who urinate in public places, even though there is no sexual motivation, can still be charged with indecent exposure as they allow their private parts to be seen by others. All in all, indecent exposure is a crime that concerns the intentional exposure of one’s private body parts, specifically the female breasts, buttocks, and genitals, in public.

2. Is it still indecent exposure even though there is no sexual act involved?

Yes. As long as private parts have been exposed to others, it is still indecent exposure. Urinating in public is an example, as mentioned earlier. Even though the doer of the act thinks that he is not harming others because he is not soliciting sex or harassing anyone, the very act of exposing private areas of the body can cause mental or emotional trauma to others, especially children.

3. Can I be charged with indecent exposure if I walk around naked in my own house?

Walking around your home or property naked can get you charged with this crime if you can be easily seen by your neighbors or passersby. So, before you go around in your birthday suit, be sure to close your windows. If you’re considering sunbathing in your backyard or swimming nude in your pool, ensure that your area is properly covered so that people walking down the street won’t see you.

4. If I’m convicted of indecent exposure, does that mean that I’m a sex offender?

As with many other laws, regulations regarding indecent exposure vary for each state. There are states that do not consider indecent exposure as a sex crime. But there are also other states that require individuals convicted of indecent exposure to get themselves registered in the sex offender database.

5. What about breastfeeding in public?

This is a controversial issue. Some believe that breastfeeding is just natural, and what mother would want her son or daughter to go hungry, right? Others, however, think that breastfeeding in public places constitutes indecent exposure. As mentioned, the law differs for each state. In forty-five states, including Massachusetts, Alabama, and Washington, it is perfectly alright for women to breastfeed in public or private areas. Breastfeeding is also exempted from public indecency laws in twenty-eight states, while other states have regulations regarding breastfeeding in the workplace.

  • bloomsberries. “gavel”. January 23, 2007. Online image. Flickr. March 18, 2013.
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Elliot Savitz, a criminal defense attorney based in Massachusetts, heads the Law Offices of Elliot Savitz. He specializes in many different cases, including possession of drugs, indecent exposure, and assault and battery.

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