Indecent exposure is a criminal offense, and a conviction may result in a fine or a short jail sentence.Elements of Indecent Exposure
In order to convict a defendant of indecent exposure, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant intentionally exposed his or her genitals to another person; and
- At least one person was offended by the exposure.
Unlike the elements of open and gross lewd and lascivious conduct, indecent exposure does not include exposing a female’s breast, or any person’s buttocks. It applies only to male and female genitalia. This offense also does not require public exposure and does not require that the exposure produce alarm or shock (although at least one witness has to be offended by the exposure). Indecent exposure is what’s known as a “lesser included offense” of open and gross lewd and lascivious conduct.Common Defenses
Indecent exposure cases are commonly defended in the following manners:
- Accident - The assistant district attorney is required to prove the defendant's exposure was intentional. Accidental exposure is insufficient to establish guilt - so the person who accidentally exposes himself while adjusting his bathing suit at the beach, or the person who is trying on clothes in a store's dressing room and exposes herself when the door is unexpectedly opened by an employee, are not guilty of indecent exposure.
- Context of the Exposure - The assistant district attorney must establish that at least one person who witnessed the exposure was offended by it. Therefore, a fraternity member who exposes himself to his brothers as a joke is unlikely to be guilty of indecent exposure, as his brothers will likely not be offended by the exposure. This offense is often charged when intoxicated people are urinating in a public place (such as in an alley next to a bar). If they are surrounded by other drunk individuals, the question always becomes whether anyone was offended by the exposure.
In 2014, the Governor signed a bill that makes it a crime to secretly videotape or take photographs of another person's sexual parts if the person being videotaped or photographed made a reasonable effort to cover up those areas. The maximum penalty for violating the statute is two and a half years in the House of Correction. Secretly photographing or videotaping a child in this manner is a felony and is punishable by up to five years in state prison. The quick passage of the law followed a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that older laws did not apply to the crime of upskirting.
Sex crime convictions are particularly problematic because in addition to possible prison sentences, they carry with them a stigma that is not present in other types of crimes. While indecent exposure is the least serious of the sex crimes, it remains an offense that can lead to a jail sentence upon conviction. Attorney Spring has tried sex crime cases as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, in both superior court and district court. If you are charged with indecent exposure, call Attorney Spring today and schedule a free consultation.