Lewd conduct involves exposing your genitals, having sex in public or masturbating in public, or fondling another person is a violation of Colorado’s public indecency and indecent exposure laws. Public indecency is a petty offense. Indecent exposure is a misdemeanor. However, multiple convictions for public indecency or a single conviction for indecent exposure could require registration as a sex offender. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is lewd conduct in Colorado?
- 2. What is public indecency?
- 3. What is indecent exposure?
- 4. What are the penalties for lewd conduct?
- 5. Do I have to register as a sex offender for lewd conduct?
- 6. What are defenses to lewd conduct charges?
1. What is lewd conduct in Colorado?
Lewd conduct refers to indecent, obscene, or offensive sexual behavior. It generally refers to sexual acts that arouse sexual interest or offend another person. Lewd and lascivious conduct generally applies to acts done in public or within public view. It generally does not apply to activity taking place in private.
There is not a specific statute that addresses lewd conduct in Colorado. Instead, lewd conduct is addressed by Colorado’s laws against public indecency and indecent exposure.
2. What is public indecency?
Under Colorado law, a person commits public indecency by having sex in public, lewdly fondling someone, lewdly exposes their intimate parts for the purpose of arousal, or exposes their genitals in public.1
Urinating in public is a violation of Colorado’s public indecency laws. Urinating in public is also one of the most common public indecency charges. Even if the individual has no intent to offend another person and they are not acting in a lewd manner. Exposure of their genitals generally qualifies as public indecency because exposure of one’s genitals is likely to cause affront or alarm.
3. What is indecent exposure?
Under Colorado law, a person commits indecent exposure if they knowingly expose their genitals to the view of any person under circumstances likely to cause affront or alarm with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of any person.2
Indecent exposure also includes performing an act of masturbation which exposes the act to the view of any person likely to cause affront or alarm. Masturbation includes actual or simulated touching, rubbing, or otherwise stimulating of a person’s own genitals or pubic area. It may be considered indecent exposure even if you only pretended to masturbate and your genitals are covered because it is likely to cause alarm to another person.
If you expose your genitals in a location where it will not likely cause an affront, this may not be considered indecent exposure. For example, if you go to a known nude bathing location and take off your clothes, it may not be indecent exposure because other people at the nude beach are not likely to be alarmed or offended.
4. What are the penalties for lewd conduct?
The penalties for lewd conduct depend on whether the conduct is charged as public indecency or indecent exposure. Public indecency is a class 1 petty offense. A conviction for public indecency could result in up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500. However, if the individual has a prior conviction for public indecency or another comparable offense, it can be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor.3
The penalties for indecent exposure depend on the individual’s prior criminal history. Indecent exposure is a class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 18 months in jail, and a fine of up to $5,000. If the individual has two prior convictions for indecent exposure or comparable offenses, it may be charged as a class 6 felony.4
The most significant difference between the penalties for indecent exposure and public indecency is the requirement to register as a sex offender. A conviction for indecent exposure requires registration as a sex offender in Colorado.5
5. Do I have to register as a sex offender for lewd conduct?
A conviction for indecent exposure requires registration as a sex offender. Your name will be entered into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s sex offender registry. Sex offenders convicted of misdemeanor indecent may not be searchable by the public. However, multiple convictions for indecent exposure may allow neighbors and members of the public to identify you as a sex offender.6
Unlike indecent exposure, a simple conviction for public indecency will not require registry as a sex offender. However, multiple convictions for public indecency may result in sex offender status. A second public indecency conviction within 5 years of a previous offense or a third or subsequent conviction may require registration as a sex offender. 7
A sex offender has to register with the local chief of police or county sheriff in any jurisdiction where they reside. This includes providing their name, date of birth, address, place of employment, fingerprints, a photograph, email addresses, and instant messaging or chat room identities. They will also have to re-register every year within 5 days of their birthday. They also have to re-register if they change address or begin working at an institution of higher education.
Failure to register or knowingly providing false information is a criminal offense, punishable by prison and a possible fine. Failure to register as a sex offender for misdemeanor indecent exposure is a class 1 misdemeanor.8
6. What are defenses to lewd conduct charges?
There are a number of possible defenses to lewd conduct charges. Breastfeeding in public is not lewd conduct. Colorado law permits a mother to breastfeed in any place she has the right to be.4 Other possible defenses may include:
- The exposure was unintentional,
- Your intimate parts were not exposed,
- You were not touching genitals or an intimate part,
- There was no one around to be offended,
- Mistaken identity, or
- False accusations.
Call us for help…
If you were accused of lewd conduct, indecent exposure, or public indecency, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado DUI lawyers have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with indecent exposure or public indecency. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
In California? See our article on Lewd or Dissolute Conduct in Public | Penal Code 647(a) PC.
In Nevada? See our article on open or gross lewdness laws (NRS 201.210).
- CRS. 18-7-301
- CRS 18-7-302
- CRS. 18-7-301(2)(b)
- CRS 18-7-302(4)
- CRS 16-22-102(9)(m)
- CRS 16-22-112(2)(b)(II)(E)
- CRS. 16-22-102(9)(z)
- CRS 18-3-412.5