18-7-302 CRS - Indecent Exposure Law in Colorado

Exposing your genitals to another person in Colorado is considered indecent exposure under 18-7-302 CRS. Masturbating in public is also considered indecent exposure. Indecent exposure is a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado and can result in up to 18 months in custody and a $5,000 fine. A conviction for indecent exposure may also require you to register as a sex offender.

In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

Exposing your genitals to another person is considered indecent exposure and a violation of Colorado law.

1. What is indecent exposure in Colorado?

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.1

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. In this context, masturbation is defined as the real or simulated touching, rubbing, or otherwise stimulating of a person's own genitals or pubic area, regardless of whether the genitals are exposed or covered. Even if you only pretended to masturbate, it may still be considered indecent exposure if it is likely to cause alarm to another person.

The individual's intent and the location of where the alleged indecent exposure are important. If someone exposes their genitals in a place not likely to be in view of other people, it may not be indecent exposure. For example, if someone went to a secluded hiking spot they may decide to take off their clothes to sunbathe. If someone suddenly comes across their path, this may not be indecent exposure because they did not knowingly expose their genitals to the view of any person.

Similarly, 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 someone goes to a known nude beach and takes off their clothes, this may not be indecent exposure because other people at the nude beach are not likely to be alarmed or offended.

2. How does the prosecutor prove I am guilty of indecent exposure?

In order for the prosecutor to prove you are guilty of indecent exposure, they have to prove that you performed an act of masturbation in public, or:

  1. Knowingly exposed your genitals,
  2. To the view of another person,
  3. Under circumstances likely to cause affront or alarm, and
  4. With the intent to satisfy the sexual desire of any person.

If the prosecutor cannot prove each element of the offense, they did not prove the defendant is guilty of indecent exposure. Knowing exposure is done intentionally. If someone else pulls your pants down, it is not considered knowing exposure of your genitals. Additionally, if you are in your backyard skinny dipping in your pool and a door-to-door salesman looks over your gate, this is not indecent exposure because you did not know that your genitals would come into view of another person.

It is important to understand that the intent element is not limited to the sexual desire of the person exposing their genitals. For example, if a woman flashed her genitals to people in public because it satisfied her boyfriend's sexual desire, that may qualify as indecent exposure even if she was not sexually aroused.

3. What are the penalties for indecent exposure?

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.

Additional penalties may require treatment or counseling, and other probationary terms. However, the most damaging aspect of an indecent exposure conviction is the requirement to register as a sex offender.2

4. Do I have to register as a sex offender for indecent exposure?

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.3

After an indecent exposure conviction, an individual will have 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.4

5. How can I fight indecent exposure charges?

There are a number of possible defenses to charges of indecent exposure. Your Colorado criminal defense attorney will investigate your case and examine all the evidence to identify your best defenses. Possible defenses may include:

  • The exposure was unintentional,
  • Your genitals were not exposed,
  • False accusations,
  • Mistaken identity, or
  • There was no one around to be offended.

6. Related Offenses

Indecent exposure in Colorado is closely related to public indecency, under C.R.S. 18-7-301. Public indecency may involve exposing intimate parts other than the genitals, such as the breasts or pubic area. It also includes having sex in a public location. Public indecency is generally a more minor offense and does not require registration as a sex offender.

6.1 Public Indecency, C.R.S. 18-7-301

Public indecency (C.R.S. 18-7-301) involves fondling in a lewd manner, exposing intimate parts in a lewd manner, or sexual intercourse in a public place or where the conduct may be expected to be viewed by the public. Public decency is a class 1 petty offense, with penalties including up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Call us for help...

If you were accused of indecent exposure, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our Colorado defense 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.

Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada indecent exposure law.

Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 18-7-302
  2. C.R.S. 16-22-102(9)(m)
  3. C.R.S. 16-22-112(2)(b)(II)(E)
  4. C.R.S. 18-3-412.5

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