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What Are the Best Legal Defenses for Indecent Exposure?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Aug 11, 2022

California Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure is a very serious crime because if you get convicted of it, you now have on your record a sex-related offense that can be carried around with you.  When people run your history, seeing that you have been convicted of indecent exposure, that puts you in a terrible position.

Indecent exposure is one of the minor sex crimes as it's a misdemeanor for the first offense, but the collateral consequences can impact you for many years to come. Penal Code 647(a) PC lewd conduct in public and Penal Code 415 PC disturbing the peace are closely related crimes.

Best Legal Defenses for PC 314 Indecent Exposure

The penalties will always depend on the details and whether it is a first or subsequent offense. Even a misdemeanor conviction could require you to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC, which could affect the types of jobs you can hold and even where you're allowed to live.

Penal Code 314 PC defines indecent exposure as when somebody willfully exposes their naked body or genitals to someone else or a group of people in a public place who could be offended or annoyed in a public place.

The act of “exposing” must be done with the intent to draw public attention to their genitals for sexual gratification or to offend. Put simply, “intent” is a central element of the crime in prosecuting a PC 314 indecent exposure.

A second offense could result in aggravated felony charges that carry up to three years in state prison. The sex offender registration means your name and address will remain on the registry for ten years under the California three-tier system.

You could be charged with aggravated indecent exposure if it occurred in an inhabited home, trailer, or building or if you entered the building without consent for this purpose.  This wobbler offense can be charged either as:

  • a misdemeanor or a felony,
  • a fine of up $10,000 in fines, and
  • up to 3 years in prison.

Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine this subject further below.

Accidental Exposure Defense

First, to assess the potential defenses, you've got to understand the crime of indecent exposure.  It's willfully exposing your genitals and your breasts in public where somebody else can see, and you have to intend to do it when you do it.

Accidental Defense in Indecent Exposure Cases

One defense would be, for example – and I've had a case similar to this – my client went into a 7-11.  He was wearing very tight and short pants, and you could see part of his penis exposed.  His defense was that he didn't do it on purpose.  He had no intent to do it, and because he had no criminal record, I was able to get the case dismissed.

But sometimes, under the circumstances like that, you can't get the case dismissed because the prosecutors and police will argue that the person did it intentionally. They had no reason to expose themselves.  It wasn't an accident.

The best way for them to prove that would be to have prior convictions for sex-related offenses, especially indecent exposure.  That would show that this was not an accident.  He's done it before.  He must have done it again.

Another defense to indecent exposure would be that nobody saw it.  If nobody saw the person, even if it was captured on video, but nobody else saw, that could be an argument that the person should not be charged and convicted of indecent exposure.

What Are Some Other Potential Defenses?

Other potential defenses are going to depend upon the circumstances of the crime:

  • What happened?
  • Who saw it?
  • What was exposed?
  • Was it an accident?
  • Was it intentional?
  • What are the surrounding facts and circumstances?

That's where you want someone like me, who's been doing this now for 30 years, to be able to champion your position.

Reviewing the Elements of the Crime

The first thing we'll do if you're charged with Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure:

  • We're going to look at the elements of the crime;
  • We're going to go through them;
  • We'll look to see what evidence the prosecutors and police have and what evidence we can bring to bear on the situation.

Once we look at both sides of the chart – the evidence against you / the proof on your side – we will decide whether you genuinely have a defense.  Perhaps there was no intent for sexual gratification.

Sometimes that's not easy.  Sometimes it's a gray area because it could go either way, and it will ultimately be the jury's decision.  They're going to listen to the evidence, and they're going to decide whether you intentionally exposed yourself or not.

Legal defenses for Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure

If they conclude that you did, it is not a good idea to fight the case.  Our best angle is to find some resolution, get mitigating factors to the prosecutor to assess, and try a fair solution.

If, on the other hand, your position is that I've never done anything like this before; I did not do this intentionally, and the surrounding facts lend themselves to make that argument, then it's time to go to war.  It's time to do a jury trial and prove that you're innocent.

The bottom line is that this is a severe crime, and you need the best on your side, so if you're charged with a violation of Penal Code Section 314, also known as indecent exposure.

Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  You're going to be meeting me.  I worked for the District Attorney's office when I first started.  I then worked for a superior court judge, and finally, in 1994, I became a criminal defense attorney, representing people just like you – hundreds of cases, a lot of success, a lot of wins.

If you need the best, pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation by telephone or use the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.