Moral decency is something that is universally accepted in all parts of the world. Decency is defined as what is considered modest and morally and socially acceptable for the best standards of living. Most states in the country today have laws to govern how people conduct themselves, especially when out in public. Laws against indecent exposure are among the decency laws we have in the state of Virginia. The truth is that decency varies significantly from one person to another and the community.
For that reason, a person can be accused of indecent exposure, while in the real sense, he/she did not mean to act indecently in public. Other people face false accusations for this severe offense. That is why we are offering quality legal defense services at Virginia Criminal Attorney to ensure that people's rights are not violated in the process. If, therefore, you are in Fairfax, VA, and Northern Virginia and are facing charges for indecent exposure, you can get in touch with us.
Legal Definition of Indecent Exposure
Indecent exposure is a grave offense in most parts of the country. It is an offense committed when a person intentionally displays their private parts to one or more people or in public view, intending to shock an unsuspecting viewer. Exposing one's genitals may seem like an innocent and harmless act, but there is a belief that people who tend to display their private parts in public are at risk of committing more heinous offenses. It means that they could be a danger to the public, which is why they should be punished as soon as possible.
However, a prosecutor in a criminal court should be able to prove to the court that the defendant indeed displayed his/her private parts in public for him/her to be found guilty of the offense. Accusing a person of indecent exposure with no evidence will not be legally sufficient to convict the offender. The court will want to hear that the offender committed the offense willfully, that the crime was indecent and that the offense was committed in public. It means that exposing one’s genitals in one’s home does constitute indecent exposure if it was willfully done and in view of other members of the family.
Note that age is not an excuse to commit the offense of indecent exposure. Since it is not an element of this crime, a minor can face indecent exposure charges. However, a naked baby cannot be accused of the same offense since their nakedness was not offensive and intentional. Here are some of the actions that can easily qualify as indecent exposure:
- Exposing your genitals in a public place where other people are likely to see
- Masturbating in public or in a place where you are likely to be viewed by other people
- Openly engaging in sexual conduct
- Behaving in a manner that would appear to an ordinary observer to be masturbation or sexual conduct
If any of the above is done purposefully, with the intent to offend or alarm other people, the person could face indecent exposure charges. Even though the motive for such an act will vary from one offender to another, most people who expose themselves indecently in public do so for sexual gratification or induce a sexual response from their viewers.
Indecent Exposure Laws in Virginia
The state of Virginia is among the many states in the United States that have clear laws against indecent exposure or lewd conduct in public. Exposing your genitals in a public place or in a place where other people are present is morally unacceptable in the state. This conduct includes engaging in sexual intercourse publicly, masturbation, and any other type of shameless exhibitionism. If a person is arrested and found guilty of indecent exposure in Virginia, they are likely to face a harsh penalty, which may include time behind bars and a hefty fine. The penalties increase in the presence of aggravating factors, including exposing oneself indecently in the presence of a minor.
The laws against indecent exposure in Virginia are under Code 18.2-387 of the state laws. According to this law, any person who intentionally exposes themselves indecently in public, or their private parts in the presence of other people, can face charges for indecent exposure. The same law applies to any person who might cause another person to indecently expose themselves or their genitals in public or in a place where other people are present. The only exception to this law is for a lactating mother who might need to breastfeed her child in a public place or in a place where other people are present.
This section of Virginia law is mainly used by law enforcers to caution against public nudity, masturbation in public, and other sexual acts in public places. During the application of this law in specific cases, it may be a little challenging for the prosecutor to prove his/her case against the offender. It is because, the question of precisely what exposing your genitals or private parts is, and whether or not you can still commit the offense when you are fully clothed. It is the point where other elements of the crime come in, including the offender's intent and the results of their actions to the members of the public.
Example: Take a man facing indecent exposure charges because a neighbor who always sees him fully naked through his window reported the matter. The man may or may not be guilty of indecent exposure as per Virginia statutes. The court, in this case, will seek to determine the man’s intent. If the man was well-aware that his neighbor could see him naked through his window, the court might find him guilty of indecent exposure. However, it is not easy for a prosecutor to prove a person's intent beyond a reasonable doubt, and for that reason, the court may be compelled to drop the charges and set the man free.
Other cases are judged based on what the court considered obscene. The term ‘obscene’ as used in this section of Virginia law refers to anything that is shameful or has an interest in nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, and excretory functions. It has to be something that goes beyond customary and moral limits.
Elements of Virginia Indecent Exposure
For a person to be found guilty of indecent exposure in Virginia, the prosecutor has to prove all the elements or facts of this offense. These are:
- That the offender willingly exposed his/her private parts to one or more people
- That by doing so, the other person or people were annoyed or offended by his/her actions
- That the exposure was not accidental, but intentional and willful
Circumstances That Could Cause Indecent Exposure Arrests in Virginia
Some people publicly expose their genitals just to annoy other people or for sexual gratification. On the other hand, some people perform individual acts innocently without knowing that they are committing such a severe offense as indecent exposure. Here are some of the instances that can cause you to face a serious charge of indecent exposure in the state of Virginia even when you feel innocent:
- Engaging in sexual activities in public
- Mooning or flashing in public
- Sunbathing while naked
- People who wear shorts or clothes which are extremely short
- Skinny dipping
- Nudists engaging in sexual acts close enough to one another
- Skimpy dressing that exposes one’s genitals when done in the presence of a minor
- Urinating in a public place
- Walking naked in an undisclosed compound
In most of these situations, the prosecutor is expected by the court to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused behaved the way they did with a lustful intent or intent to annoy other people. It is the only way the accused can be found guilty of the offense. If any of these acts were done willingly, to show off their private parts to unsuspecting or unwilling persons, the offender would be found guilty of indecent exposure. The offender will need an experienced defense attorney to counter the prosecutor's proof for their charges to be reduced or dropped.
Penalties for an Indecent Exposure Conviction in Virginia
According to Section § 18.2-387 of Virginia Laws, any person who makes an indecent exposure or display of themselves or their genitals in public or in a place where other people are present is guilty of Class One Misdemeanor. The same applies to any person who causes another person to expose themselves or their private parts publicly. Class One Misdemeanors in the state of Virginia are the most serious misdemeanors, punishable by a maximum of 12 months behind bars and/or a fine of not more than $2,500.
Any person that engages in an actual act of explicit stimulation for example masturbation or sexual conduct in public or in a place where there are other people is also guilty of Class One Misdemeanor.
A person who is found guilty of indecent exposure for the second time in ten years will face a felony conviction, punishable by a maximum of ten years behind bars.
Similarly, a person who is found guilty of indecently exposing their private parts before a minor below the age of 15, orsome one who causes a child of that age to expose their private parts indecently will be guilty of a felony offense, punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison. According to Virginia laws, an adult is a person aged 18 years or above. Any such person is not allowed by the law to take any indecent liberties with a minor. If an act of indecent exposure, as defined above, is done with lascivious intent, intentionally and knowingly, it will qualify as a felony offense.
Note that whether or not the defendant was aware of the minor’s age is not relevant in determining their guilt in the commission of this offense. The exception only comes in cases where the offender and the minor are married.
As if that is not enough, people who are convicted of obscene sexual display or indecent exposure in Virginia for the third or more times in ten years face additional penalties, including compulsory registration as a sex offender. It should be done every year in the state's Sex Offenders Register. What makes this even worse is that the registry is usually accessible by members of the public and can be searched by friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, potential employers, and potential landlords. It means that this is an offense that can make it hard for you to maintain good relationships with people around you as well as find suitable employment or a house to rent.
In addition to that, the police will always monitor you closely to ensure that you are not committing a similar or more severe offense after that. The offender does not even have a right to have their names removed from the records, however much they transform. However, once you serve your prison term and some time passes, you may be able to petition the court to have your name cleared off the registry. The decision to grant or not grant your request rests with the judge.
Such harsh penalties are what you should try to avoid if you are facing charges for indecent exposure in Virginia today. The fact that you will have a permanent record once you get sentenced to indecent exposure means that so many aspects of your life will be affected. An experienced criminal attorney will know the right procedure to use and the best defense strategies to get your charges reduced or dropped.
How to Fight Virginia Indecent Exposure Charges
A conviction for indecent exposure is enough to affect a person's life in so many ways. Other than serving time behind bars and paying hefty penalties, this is an offense that will affect your social as well as professional life. The good thing is that Virginia criminal courts allow suspected offenders to get legal representation for a fair ruling. Your attorney will be able to plan a good defense, based on the circumstances of your case, to compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges. Some of the defense strategies that can be used in such a situation include:
The Exposure Was by Accident
For exposure to be charged as indecent exposure in Virginia, the offender must have done it willfully, with the intent to annoy the people in his/her presence. If, therefore, it happened accidentally, the offender cannot be found guilty of the offense. Note that all the elements of the crime listed above must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt for the offender to be found guilty in a criminal court. Your attorney could argue that you did not intend to expose yourself in public. If the court accepts this defense, then it will drop your charges.
So many people across the country today are serving time for offenses they did not commit. It happens in cases where the person has been falsely identified as the perpetrator while they are not the real culprits. If, for instance, an indecent exposure offense was committed in the dark, and the people around could not identify the offender's face accurately, there is a chance that someone who looks more like the actual offender will be apprehended and charged with the offense. While in some cases, the police are usually right in the person they arrest, there are times they could arrest the wrong person.
If you have been falsely identified as the offender, your attorney should be able to convince the court that you are not the actual perpetrator. In that case, your charges will be dropped, and the court will compel the police to go after the real offender.
As mentioned above, all the elements of this offense must be satisfied for an indecent exposure offender to be charged with the crime. If not, the court will cite insufficient evidence and drop your case. Your attorney can take advantage of this to have our charges dropped altogether. He/she may cast doubts in the prosecutor's evidence to ensure that the evidence presented is not enough to convict you of the crime. If this works, your charges will be dropped.
Frequently Asked Questions About Virginia Indecent Exposure Laws
There is a lot of confusion surrounding indecent exposure laws in the state of Virginia. For this reason, it is challenging for an ordinary person to understand the gravity of their charges once they are arrested and charged in court for indecent exposures. Here are some of the frequently-asked questions about the same and answers that could help you understand your charges better:
What Extent of Exposure is Deemed as Indecent in Virginia?
The definition of this offense includes exposure of a person’s genitals to other people or in the presence of other people. It is important to note that this exposure must be bare, for instance, exposure of bare genitals. It means that exposing your underwear does not qualify as indecent exposure. If a person removed their clothes in public but was left in their undergarments, they would not be guilty of Virginia indecent exposure.
Does a Person Need to Touch Their Genitals to be Guilty of Indecent Exposure?
No. indecent exposure charges only include exposing your genitals. If the person goes ahead to touch or fondle their genitals in public or other people's presence, they will face a different charge of lewd conduct in public.
Is a Person Who Exposes Themselves in Public But in The Absence of People Guilty of Indecent Exposure?
If exposure is done in the absence of people, it will not meet the complete legal definition of the offense. The law requires the exposure to be done in the presence of other people, with the intent of annoying or offending them. If the exposure was indeed done in a public place, but no person was present, the offender will not be guilty of Virginia indecent exposure.
What If a Person Exposes Themselves, But The Other People Look Away or Close Their Eyes?
In such a case, the court will consider the conduct and the intent of the offender, and not whether or not the other person or people got to see the exposure. If a person exposed their genitals in public, they acted lewdly, and the main intent would be to get public attention to their genitals. It may have been for the purposes of offending the other people or to sexually gratify themselves. It means that all the elements of indecent exposure offense have been satisfied, even though the other person/people looked away. The court will not need proof that the other person actually saw the exposed private parts.
Is Getting Naked in One’s Home an Indecent Act?
Whether or not getting naked in one’s home qualifies as indecent exposure depends on the circumstances of the act and the offender’s intent. A person who enjoys staying naked in his/her own house may not be found guilty of indecent exposure if it is established that he/she did not intend to annoy others or get sexually aroused. If, however, the court realizes that the person acted the way he/she did, knowing too well that his/her neighbors or their children could see him/her, the court may convict him/her of indecent exposure.
Find a Farfaix Sex Crime Attorney Near Me
If you are facing indecent exposure charges in Virginia, it is advisable to find yourself an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It will give you enough time to plan for your defense, to avoid the harsh penalties associated with a conviction. If you are in Fairfax, VA, or Northern Virginia, call us at 703-718-5533. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, you will find the best team that will ensure that your rights are protected. We will journey with you through the legal process as we work to get the best possible outcome for your case.