Could You Be Labeled a Sex Offender for Streaking?
The family of Christian Adamek will forever mourn his fateful decision to pull a silly teenage stunt during an Alabama high school football game.
On Friday evening, Sept. 27, 2013, 15-year-old Christian ran naked across the football field during a game at Sparkman High School. Streaking used to be considered a harmless prank in the United States. But not anymore.
Today, drawing attention to yourself while naked in public is usually considered a criminal offense. In fact, it can be charged as the sex offense of indecent exposure, depending on whether the offense was committed for sexual gratification.
Is Streaking a Sex Crime?
In California, public nudity isn’t necessarily a crime. However, indecent exposure certainly is criminal as well as a registerable sex offense.
Unfortunately, 15-year-old Christian believed he would have faced serious consequences, including the possibility of being labeled a sex offender, for his streaking stunt. After it was suggested that he could be expelled and school authorities recommended that he face a hearing in the criminal justice system to determine whether he should be formally charged, the Huntsville, Ala. teenager committed suicide by hanging himself less than a week after he bared it all on the field.
Sadly, Christian would not have had to register as a sex offender for streaking during his ill-conceived prank. Alabama prosecutors confirmed that what he did is considered public lewd conduct, a misdemeanor that Alabama does not consider a registerable sex offense.
Additionally, a 15-year-old charged with public lewdness would be sent to juvenile court, where the punishment would range from counseling to probation. In fact, the charges could be dismissed after six months if the juvenile stays out of trouble.
In California, like Alabama, sex offender registration does apply in cases where a person is convicted of indecent exposure, which involves the added intent of sexual gratification.
You need to be aware that streaking or other public lewd conduct in California is a serious matter. However, committing an act of indecent exposure can mean much more than a criminal conviction…it can affect you for the rest of your life.
What is Lewd Conduct in Public? (PC 647(a))
California law pursuant to Penal Code Section 647(a) says that you are guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct if you solicit anyone to engage in or you engage in lewd conduct in a public place or exposed to public view.
Lewd conduct means touching your (or someone else’s) genitals, buttocks or a female’s breast:
Having sex in public is not in itself a crime, nor is being naked in public. These activities only become lewd conduct when you know or you reasonably should know that there is likely to be someone present or watching who would be offended by your conduct.
A conviction for lewd conduct under PC 647(a) is punishable by up to six months in jail and by a maximum fine of $1,000.
Public lewd conduct is not a registerable sex offense in California. However, prosecutors often charge indecent exposure along with a violation of PC 647(a) in these situations, which raises the stakes considerably.
What is Indecent Exposure? (PC 314)
“Indecent exposure” under California Penal Code Section 314 prohibits willfully and lewdly exposing your genitals to someone else while motivated by an intent to sexually gratify yourself or offend the other person.
The law is vague and can be broadly applied to cover conduct in a variety of situations. For example, simply urinating in public is not indecent exposure. However, drawing attention to yourself by flaunting your genitals or baring your breasts in a state of sexual arousal, or to surprise someone (and thereby possibly offending another) may be sufficient enough to get you arrested for indecent exposure.
Indecent exposure is a “wobbler” offense – which means the prosecutor has the option of charging you with a misdemeanor or a felony.
A first offense is usually a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, you can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Indecent Exposure is a Registerable Sex Offense
Perhaps more devastating than a potential jail or prison sentence, a conviction for indecent exposure requires the judge to impose sex offender registration. In California, this requirement is a lifetime duty.
An indecent exposure conviction doesn’t usually land you on the public sex offender website, so at least your neighbors may not be able to find out about your status as a registered sex offender. However, being labeled a sex offender may:
- Cause you to lose your job;
- Make employers reluctant to hire you in the future;
- Prohibit you from contact with any children (including your own) if you are placed on probation or another form of community supervision;
- Force you to move out of your home; and/or
- Make it difficult for you to qualify for a residential lease.
Moreover, failure to register as a sex offender is a crime itself and can send you to jail or prison anytime you are convicted of willfully neglecting your lifelong obligation.
Additionally, many communities in California have enacted local laws prohibiting sex offenders from being at or near public places where children may gather, such as:
- Secondary schools (occasionally even colleges and universities);
- Bus stops
- Swimming pools (including at a gym or health club);
- Playgrounds (including private businesses that have a playground, like McDonald’s);
- Amusement parks;
- Athletic courts and fields;
- Movie theaters;
- Parks; and\
Streaking is Not Just Risky and Foolish
Parents need to educate their children that streaking in public is more than just risky and foolish. It will almost assuredly be prosecuted as a crime. Although you may not necessarily be labeled as a sex offender for streaking, it could lead to other harsh consequences like expulsion.
In Christian Adamek’s tragic case, his decision to play a silly teenage prank led him to needlessly take his own life.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or someone in your family has been arrested for streaking, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich want to warn you that prosecutors often elevate charges of public lewd conduct to indecent exposure. You should speak to one of our experienced sex crimes defense attorneys as soon as possible.
Our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our adult and juvenile clients charged with a sexual offense. We may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether. We may be able help you avoid the serious consequences of a criminal conviction requiring lifetime registration as a sex offender.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich want you to understand that protecting you and your family is our highest priority. We will fight for the best result possible in your case.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.