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What To Do if You’re Charged with Indecent Exposure?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jul 21, 2020

This is an interesting question because I see many people getting charged with indecent exposure, and it's for various reasons that they get charged.  In other words, different factual scenarios can trigger an arrest for indecent exposure, and the prosecutors charge you. California Penal Code 314 defines the crime of indecent exposure.

I see one area where people engage in some sexual activity in public. Whether in their car or somewhere else and somebody sees them — maybe it's the police that sees them.

Perhaps another citizen sees them, and they call the police. The police roll up on them and catch them in the act of doing something in public that's sexually related, and the police end up arresting that person for indecent exposure.

People charged with indecent exposure in Los Angeles could be facing registering as a sex offender and time in the county jail.  The key is, you've got to get an attorney who has a lot of experience with these types of cases to see, number one, whether or not the prosecutors can actually prove the case against you, and number two if they can prove the case against you, is there any way to get a lesser charge that does not include sex registration and what can we do about keeping you out of jail.

A lot of times in these indecent exposure cases in LA, I see the police engaged in one-sided investigations that do not take into account the person they are dealing with, the background, and what actually happened in the case. 

Sometimes, you've got a defense in these cases of accident.  Maybe somehow you exposed yourself, but you didn't do it on purpose.  Of course, the police, judges, and prosecutors will look at the surrounding circumstances related to your arrest.  What were you doing?  Have you ever had this type of case charged against you before, and a host of other factors that are important in assessing whether or not someone should be charged and convicted of indecent exposure?

Engaging in Sexual Activity in Public

I have one interesting case recently where my client was hooked up with somebody online and was in the car with them, and they both had their clothes off and then the girl told my client that she did not want to have any further sexual contact with him, so he said, fine.

He put his clothes back on and took her to her car, which was the end of their encounter.  But then the girl claimed that he was too aggressive with her and called the police because it was so ridiculous, because all he did was try to make a move after they both agreed to take their clothes off and once she said no, he stopped.

So, the unfortunate thing is, because the police couldn't charge him with any sexual battery or rape or anything like that because he stopped when she said stop, they decided that they were going to arrest him for indecent exposure because they were in a public parking lot.

The problem with the police doing that was that nobody else saw him with his clothes off. No testimony or evidence was presented that anybody could see anyway because they were in the back seat of the car.

So, how is that indecent exposure?  That's pretty much the argument that I made to the judge, and the judge demanded the prosecutor before we even moved forward. Because that's a misdemeanor, so you're not entitled to a preliminary hearing.

You can have a trial, but the judge will not spend their time with a problem here.  What is your theory?  How is it indecent exposure (CALCRIM 1160) if nobody else saw it?  The girl was consensual.

She had her clothes off as well, and there's no testimony or evidence that someone could see it, then it's not indecent exposure.  So, that's one scenario that I see happen all the time, where people are in a car in public somewhere, and they're engaging n some sexual activity.

Mistakes Made in Indecent Exposure Cases

California Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure is a serious charge.  You could be facing custody time and other bad things related to the stigma of a sex-related offense.  So, you don't want to make any mistakes whether you're being investigated for the crime or whether you've been cited or arrested and have to appear in court. 

You're going to want to get to an attorney immediately.  Don't think you can handle the matter yourself.  You want a criminal defense attorney on your side immediately who is seasoned and has handled these cases successfully – whether it be fighting them at a jury trial or negotiating these offenses in a way that keeps you out of jail.

Perhaps we can get you a different charge than indecent exposure, which carries a very harsh stigma that you do not want on your criminal record moving forward in your life and career.  So, the first common mistake is thinking you can handle the matter yourself, not realizing it's a crime, and not taking it seriously. 

I believe the second mistake is not hiring an attorney right away because hiring the attorney and giving them all of the information and letting them know about your background puts them in a position to start fighting for you right away, to show up at your first court date:

  • ready with a game plan already in place,
  • speak to the prosecutor,
  • pick up all of the discovery related to the offense, review it, 
  • begin the process of figuring out the best strategy moving forward,
  • you will want to get a copy of the paperwork,
  • any evidence they have, video, witnesses, etc., 
  • review it, talk to your attorney about it, and get a game plan. 

We'll sit in my office and go over everything.  We'll talk about what evidence they have, what evidence they don't have, and what we're going to do moving forward on your case, and we'll get a game plan together. We're going to decide whether we're going to fight the case in a trial, whether we're going to negotiate the case – and if we are going to deal with the issue, what can we expect to accomplish – is there anything you can do to help in this process.  I will let you know, and we will make the right moves.

Exposing Private Parts in Public

The other area that I see is people dressed scantily, whether it's a man or a woman, and you can see their private parts or see part of their private parts, and then the issue becomes — are these people doing this intentionally?

It's out in public.  People can see, or is it just an accident?  They had a clothes malfunction, and that's kind of what the debate centers around. Obviously, for the prosecutors, if they could get some photograph or video of how the person is dressed, they might show that to a jury to prove that, yes, this is an indecent exposure case.

The person is doing that intentionally. They want to expose themselves to the public because they get some sexual gratification from that, and then they'd be able to mount a pretty good case for indecent exposure.

On the flip side, if somebody is just dressed in some tight pants or even loose pants or a loose shirt and somehow, somebody sees some genitalia or any private part on the other person, whether it be a man or woman. That person has a legitimate argument that it was just accidental. They could undoubtedly mount that argument and potentially be successful.

I've been handling these indecent exposure cases all over Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and all of the 38 courts in LA County so that I can help you.  I know how to defend them.  I know how to mitigate them. I know how to negotiate with the judge and the prosecutor and get you the best result.

We may get a report from a psychologist or psychiatrist assessing whether, in fact, you are likely to become a sex offender.  The main thing the prosecutors are worried about in these indecent exposure cases is whether or not somebody might do something illegal to women of a sexual nature or even illegal to a child.

So, we can get what's called a static 99 report, which assesses whether or not you might be a recidivist and be involved with this in the future.  We can also get what's called a Penal Code Section 288.1 report, which does the same thing but goes into a little bit more detail about you and your background.  It talks about mitigation.  The doctor, a lot of times, will perform tests and then put you in a category of whether or not you're likely to be some sort of a sex offender in the future. 

With this information, hopefully being positive, character letters, and someone like me who's been doing this for over 30 years, we should be able to put you in the best possible position and do everything we can to be related to your indecent exposure case.

Hedding Law Firm is a top-rated criminal defense law firm in Los Angeles County. We defend clients throughout Southern California. We are located at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our firm for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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