California Indecent Exposure Attorneys
California Penal Code section 314 prohibits a person from willfully and lewdly exposing their private parts in a public place where other people are present that could be annoyed or offended. A first conviction is normally a misdemeanor, but subsequent indecent exposure convictions are felonies. However, even a misdemeanor conviction for this offense requires lifetime registration as a sex-offender under Penal Code section 290.
In order for the prosecution to convict someone of the indecent exposure, the People must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant willfully exposed his or her genitals in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by the defendant’s actions;
- When the defendant exposed himself or herself, the defendant acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to his or her genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant or another person, or sexually offending another person.
Someone commits an act willfully when they do it on purpose. It is not required for the defendant to intend to break the law or hurt someone.
The People do not have to prove that someone actually saw the exposed genitalia. So if a defendant flashes his private parts to a victim and the victim immediately turns their head and doesn’t actually see anything, the defendant can still be convicted of indecent exposure.
Defenses to Indecent Exposure
There are several defenses to indecent exposure including mistake of fact, lack of intent and presence of other people. The very first jury trial that Fred Thiagarajah conducted as a defense attorney involved a case where his client was wrongfully accused of indecent exposure in Orange County. Through careful cross-examination of the two alleged victims, Fred Thiagarajah was able to show that they were actually mistaken about what they saw and Mr. Thiagarajah’s client was acquitted of all charges.
Another defense to indecent exposure is lack of intent. The prosecution must prove that the defendant acted lewdly for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. If a defendant exposed himself for reasons other than sexual gratification or to sexually annoy someone, then there is no crime of indecent exposure.
Also, if the prosecution fails to show that the defendant intended to direct public attention to his private parts while exposing them, then they cannot prove indecent exposure.
Finally, indecent exposure only involves the exposure of genitalia. If a woman flashes her breasts, she is not guilty of indecent exposure, although she may have violated some municipal ordinances. Most cities have local ordinances that prohibit a woman from exposing her breasts.
Not only can an indecent exposure conviction lead to criminal penalties and lifetime registration as a sex offender, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Indecent exposure is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Having an indecent exposure conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has an indecent exposure conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. In addition to registering as a sex offender for life, the most severe impact of an indecent exposure conviction involves immigration consequences. Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with a green card, or temporary visitors, with a student visa or work visa, can be denied admission or naturalization or even deported, with an indecent exposure conviction on their record.
The Right Lawyers
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal indecent exposure charges. Many people who face indecent exposure charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of indecent exposure, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need attorney Fred Thiagarajah.
All of our attorneys have either worked at the District Attorney’s Office or the Public Defender’s Office. Whether it’s negotiation or trial, our attorneys have the training and experience to get the best results for our clients on their criminal cases and their immigration consequences. Our attorneys have worked in the Sexual Assault unit of the District Attorney’s Office and use their specialized knowledge of sex crimes to defend our clients, including those accused of indecent exposure. For an example of our work, please see our case results and read our client testimonials. With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Murrieta, Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga, our team of attorneys have the right criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
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Principal Attorney Fred Thiagarajah is a member of MENSA, the international high-IQ society.
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