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Q: What does the DA have to prove in order to convict someone of indecent exposure? 


A: To prove you guilty of indecent exposure in violation of Penal Code Section 314(1), the DA must prove two elements:

1. You willfully exposed your genitals in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by your actions; 

2. When you exposed yourself, you acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to your genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying yourself or another person, or to sexually offend another person.

Q: What's a winning defense in indecent exposure cases?

A: Typically, the best defense is that the DA can't prove your intent. 

When you think of indecent exposure, you generally think of someone naked in a trench coat running around town flashing people, or someone masturbating in public. But, it's not always so obvious. It's important to understand that simply exposing your private parts doesn't necessarily mean you're guilty of this offense. The DA has to show not just that your genitals were exposed, but also that you were doing so with the specific intention of seeking sexual gratification or to sexually offend others. If you happened to get caught simply peeing in public, for example, that shouldn't result in an indecent exposure conviction, unless you were doing it specifically to sexually offend others. 

Q: What's the jail time for indecent exposure if convicted?

A: This offense is a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is 180 days in county jail and/or $1000 fine plus assessments. However, if you committed the act while trespassing into an inhabited home, the crime becomes a felony and you face state prison. Assuming your case is a misdemeanor (as most are), you're typically facing a period of probation (probably unsupervised), a small fine (around $250), and a light amount of jail. Assuming your criminal record is minimal, it is unlikely you would face more than 30 actual days. And you generally can serve that sentence on the Sheriff's community work program. 

Q: Do I have to register as a sex offender if convicted?

A: Yes. Although a misdemeanor, the main issue in these cases is that a conviction of this offense requires lifetime sex registration per Penal Code Section 290. Now, in 2018, changes in the law regarding sex registration were passed that will make this offense (and others) considered a Tier 1 offense, the least severe offense. When the law goes into effect in 2019, it should mean that if you're convicted of this offense, you won't necessarily be required to register as a sex offender for life; instead, it may end after 10 years. However, the procedure in ten years does not end your requirement to register automatically; you'll have to apply. The bottom line is that at this point, it's best to assume that you'll be required to register for life before jumping on a plea deal. 

Q: If I want to read the full law, where do I go?

A: The statute is Penal Code section 314. See below.

§ 314. Indecent exposure

  • Every person who willfully and lewdly, either:

    • 1.  Exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby; or,

    • 2.  Procures, counsels, or assists any person so to expose himself or take part in any model artist exhibition, or to make any other exhibition of himself to public view, or the view of any number of persons, such as is offensive to decency, or is adapted to excite to vicious or lewd thoughts or acts, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

  • Every person who violates subdivision 1 of this section after having entered, without consent, an inhabited dwelling house, or trailer coach as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, or the inhabited portion of any other building, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or in the county jail not exceeding one year.

  • Upon the second and each subsequent conviction under subdivision 1 of this section, or upon a first conviction under subdivision 1 of this section after a previous conviction under Section 288, every person so convicted is guilty of a felony, and is punishable by imprisonment in state prison.

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