Suppose on a Saturday morning a surfer has gone to the beach early to get some surfing in. He leaves the water, heads to his car in the parking lot, and not wanting to drive in his wetsuit, decides to change his clothes under a towel. Suddenly, an ocean breeze robs him of his towel, and instead of a seeing him in a wetsuit, a mother and her two small children catch a glimpse of him in his birthday suit. If the mother calls the police, could he be charged with indecent exposure? Will he have to register as a sex offender if he’s convicted of this crime?
Understanding the Crime of Indecent Exposure
If you have been charged with indecent exposure under California Penal Code Section 314, the prosecutor must prove that you willfully or purposefully exposed your genitals to another person who might be offended by the exposure. To be convicted, the prosecutor must also prove that you had a lewd purpose, meaning that you intentionally directed public attention to your genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing yourself or another person. If the prosecution is unable to prove that the exposure had a sexual motivation, you will likely not be convicted.
In the example above, it is unlikely that our surfer friend will be prosecuted for losing his towel at an unfortunate moment. Nevertheless, he should hire an experienced attorney because the consequences of being charged with this crime can be severe.
Punishment for Indecent Exposure
The penalty for an indecent exposure conviction in California depends on whether your offense was charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Regardless of whether your indecent exposure offense was charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, you may be required to spend time in county jail.
If you have no prior indecent exposure convictions on your record, the offense will be charged as a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could be sentenced to a maximum of six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
If this is your second offense for indecent exposure, or you have a prior conviction for lewd acts with a minor under California Penal Code Section 288, you could be charged with a felony. Felony indecent exposure carries a maximum sentence of three years in county jail and a fine of $10,000.
Registration as a Sex Offender (California Penal Code Section 290)
A conviction for indecent exposure under California Penal Code Section 314 requires you to register as a sex offender pursuant to California Penal Code Section 290, regardless of whether the conviction is for a felony or a misdemeanor. In some ways, this punishment is more damaging than a jail term or a fine, as the stigma of being classified as a sex offender lasts longer than the sentence.
Being required to register means that you will have to update your registration with a local law enforcement agency every year for as long as you work, live, or attend school in California. If you fail to do so, you could face a separate criminal charge for violating Penal Code Section 290.
Having an Experienced Attorney On Your Side Makes a Difference
Having a smart, hard-working legal team fighting on your behalf can mean the difference between a lifetime of having to register as a sex offender and an acquittal or reduction in charges. For example, an experienced attorney may be able to have the charge reduced to lewd act in public under California Penal Code section 647(a), which will allow you to avoid having to register as a sex offender.
Contact Wallin & Klarich for Help from an Experienced Defense Team
The sentencing and punishment for indecent exposure in California can be severe and potentially life changing. If you or someone you know has been accused of this offense, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will carefully review the facts of your case and give you the best defense possible.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients against indecent exposure charges. We will carefully review the evidence against you and help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
To receive further information about how we can help you avoid an indecent exposure penalty in California, call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245. We will get through this together.