Actual Case #1
In People v. Jose O. - Case No 3PN05821, my client was accused of indecent exposure and lewd conduct. The prosecutor wanted him to register as a sex offender for life. The allegation was that he often parked his car on a side street in Van Nuys where this attractive young lady would walk by everyday. One day, the young lady looked inside the vehicle he was driving and saw him masturbating as he was looking at her walk by. When he noticed her looking at him pulling on his manhood he drove off. The young lady was able to "partially" see his license plate and was "almost certain" as to the make and model of his car. The cops did a DMV search of the partial license plate information and came up with a make and model of a vehicle "matching the description" that the lady observed. The cops did a six-pack photo line-up of the picture of the registered driver attached to the vehicle "matching the description" and based on the lady witness pointing out a photo that looked like the guy jerking off in his car they arrested my client. The DA refused to let this case go. They refused to reason with me. They refused to see that this case was weak from a circumstantial stand point. They demanded we plead straight up to the charge and that my client who had no record register as a sex offender for life. They got what they deserved. Outcome: Not guilty verdict all charges.
California Penal Code section 314 defines "indecent exposure" as the willful exposure of one's genitals in a public place where others are present who might find the action offensive. The offense must have been done for the purpose of self-gratification or of disturbing and offending other people.
Indecent exposure can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the nature of the specific case and the criminal history of the defendant. The punishments for this crime are more severe than one might, perhaps, expect. For example, because it is listed as a sex crime, offenders are subject to lifelong registration as a sex offender with California's Sex Offender Tracking Program. Periodic updates will be mandatory with this database, and so, a conviction will affect you for the remainder of your life.
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
To convict you of the crime of indecent exposure, the prosecutor must establish beyond doubt that you willfully exposed your genitals in a public place when other people were present who were or were likely to become offended by the action. Thus, all of the following elements must be proved:
- The act of indecent exposure was willful. An accidental exposure does not qualify.
- The genitals were exposed. It is not enough that one stripped down to underwear in a public place. Only when the bare skin of the genitals is revealed does it count as indecent exposure. Furthermore, California does not count the exposure of a female's bare breasts to the public as an indecent exposure, whether done for gratification or for breast-feeding purposes.
- The act was perpetrated in a public place where someone else present was or might have been disturbed or offended. Even in a public location, it is not indecent exposure if no one else was present at the time.
- The lewd act was intended to bring the defendant's genitals to the attention of the public. It was done to attempt to sexually arouse or gratify him/her self or another person, or it was done to purposefully offend others in a sexual manner.
- Though the act was not done in public, it was done in a private home or building that was illegally entered. This entrance must have been without the consent of the owners of the property in question.
What Defense Strategies Are Available?
There are three common defense strategies that a criminal defense lawyer will likely use in defending you against the charge of indecent exposure.
They are as follows:
- The defendant accidentally exposed him/her self. While instances might be rare due to the necessary circumstances, in some cases, a person unintentionally exposes his/her genitals to the public view. A person already stripped down to the underwear might become exposed when that underwear falls or breaks. Certain Halloween costumes might malfunction and leave the private parts open. Unless the exposure was willful, it does not constitute indecent exposure.
- The defendant is being mistakenly identified as the person who committed the act of indecent exposure. The face of the perpetrator may well have been hidden by a mask, and the crime may have occurred in an alley or during relatively dark hours of the day. This could easily lead to an inability of witnesses to correctly identify the criminal.
- There simply is not enough evidence to prove that the defendant committed the crime. Convictions must be on the basis of proof beyond all reasonable doubt.
Possible Punishments for Indecent Exposure
The sentencing guidelines for the crime of indecent exposure are as follows:
- For a first-time offense, the charge is a misdemeanor. The offender must spend up to six months in the county jail, pay a fine of up to $1,000, and register as a sex offender for life with mandatory periodic updates.
- For a repeat offense, this charge is a felony. The offender may face time in state prison and is subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender with the state of California. To commit indecent exposure after illegally entering a private building also elevates indecent exposure to felony status.
Sentencing enhancements and related offenses are as follows:
- Attempted Indecent Exposure: The attempt to expose one's genitals to the public is a lesser included offense. Anyone who intentionally indecently exposed him/her self must have attempted to do so. The attempt itself is a crime, regardless of whether the person actually succeeded at exposing himself.
- Lewd Conduct in Public: This crime is distinguished from mere indecent exposure in that the perpetrator proceeds to touch himself or to touch another person in a sexual way while in full public view. Soliciting another person to commit lewd public acts is also considered to constitute lewd conduct in public.
- Disturbance of the Peace: Those who commit indecent exposure often also behave in a loud, aggressive, defiant, or otherwise offensive manner in addition to the offensiveness of the act of exposure itself. This could be a lesser included offense or an additional offense, but many times, a plea bargain might reduce the charge against you from indecent exposure to merely disturbing the peace.
The Importance of Using an Experienced Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of indecent exposure in the Los Angeles area, it is imperative that you avail yourself of the best possible criminal defense team. The consequences of a conviction can be severe and lifelong.
We at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll have extensive experience at handling indecent exposure and other sex crime allegations. Our team of indecent defense attorneys includes those who formerly were prosecutors of this crime, allowing us to foresee the next move of the prosecution and to counter it effectively. We know how to choose and proceed with the best possible defense for each case.
Our legal experts, investigators and researchers aid our attorneys at every step and assist them in winning your case. Do not hesitate to call us at 323-467-6400 for a free legal consultation and immediate attention to your needs.