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Indecent Exposure

You may have heard someone claim they ended up on the sex registry because they got caught peeing in public – be it during a long road trip or after a wild night on the town. But, does this actually happen? 

Penal Code section 314 criminalizes “indecent exposure.” Indecent exposure is typically charged as a misdemeanor, but may, in some cases, be charged as a felony. If convicted of a misdemeanor violation, you face up to a year in jail. Perhaps most significantly, an indecent exposure conviction is a Tier I offense, requiring 10 years of registering as a sex offender. And, multiple indecent exposure convictions could require additional years of registration. 

There are a few things to remember about convictions in general. A conviction requires the prosecution to prove the elements of an offense as laid out in the California statue. Indecent exposure, as defined by California Penal Code section 314, requires the prosecution to prove the following: 

A person willfully and lewdly exposed his private parts in a public place, or in any place where those present are offended or annoyed.

Specifically, this means, the prosecutor must prove: 

  1. The defendant willfully exposed his genitals in the presence of another person who might be offended or annoyed by the exposure, and 
  2. When the defendant exposed himself, he acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to his genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying himself or another person or sexually offending another person. 

So, in short: yes, it is possible that someone caught peeing on the side of the road during a long road trip could be charged with indecent exposure; however, a good defense attorney will hold a prosecutor’s feet to the fire in proving up the aforementioned elements. Specifically, a good defense attorney should vehemently reject the proposition that the defendant caught relieving himself or herself in public was attempting to direct attention to his or her genitals. In many cases, people go to great lengths to be as covert as possible when using anything but the bathroom. 

Keep in mind, there are other potentially applicable charges to peeing in public. Depending on the circumstances, you may be charged with a violation of Penal Code section 647(f), or “disorderly conduct.” You could also be charged with a violation of Penal Code section 372, or “public nuisance.” You may even be charged with a violation of Penal Code section 604, or “urinating on public transportation.” 

These other potentially applicable offenses are important to note because, unlike an indecent exposure conviction, these offenses would not typically require a person to register as a sex offender for 10+ years. Furthermore, it’s likely employers will be less concerned about public nuisance as opposed to indecent exposure. Typically speaking, sex cases, like indecent exposure, carry more for reaching and collateral consequences than non-sex cases. 

Were you or a loved one arrested in Sacramento County, Placer County, or El Dorado County? Contact our office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our lawyers can help you understand your legal options and fight the charges against you. Call now to get started. 

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