Public Indecency in Colorado
CRS 18-7-301

Exposing your intimate body parts, having sex in public, or exposing your genitals to offend another person is a violation of Colorado's public indecency statute. In many cases, urinating in public is charged as public indecency, even if the person arrested never intended to offend anyone. Public indecency is a petty offense in Colorado, which carries the possibility of up to 6 months in jail. However, multiple convictions for public indecency could require registering as a sex offender.

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

Exposing your intimate body parts, having sex in public, or exposing your genitals to offend another person is a violation of Colorado’s public indecency statute

1. What is public indecency in Colorado?

Under Colorado law, a person commits public indecency by having sex in public, lewdly fondles someone, lewdly exposes their intimate parts for the purpose of arousal, or exposes their genitals in public.1

These actions do not have to be out in the open for everyone to see, so long as they are in a public place or where members of the public can be expected. Individuals caught having sex in a car may be charged with public indecency, even if they parked in an area where they did not expect to be disturbed. If it is on a public street, then members of the public may generally be expected to see such activity.

One of the most common causes of public indecency charges under C.R.S. 18-7-301 is urinating in public. Even if the individual has no intent to offend another person and they are not acting in a lewd manner, exposure of their genitals may be enough to qualify as public indecency. In most cases, exposure of one's genitals is likely to cause affront or alarm.

2. How does the prosecutor prove I am guilty of public indecency?

In order for the prosecutor to prove you are guilty of public indecency, they have to prove that you performed any of the following acts in a public place or where the conduct may reasonably be expected to be viewed by members of the public:

  1. An act of sexual intercourse,
  2. Lewd exposure of an intimate part of the body with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of any person,
  3. Lewd fondling or caressing of the body of another person, or
  4. Knowing exposure of the person's genitals to the view of a person under circumstances in which such conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm.

If the prosecutor cannot prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then they did not prove the defendant is guilty of public indecency.

3. What are the penalties for public indecency?

The penalties for public indecency may depend on whether the individual has prior convictions for public indecency or other related charges. 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.2

4. Do I have to register as a sex offender for public indecency?

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. 3

Designation as a sex offender will result in entry into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's sex offender registry. Sex offenders have to register with the local chief of police or county sheriff. 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 multiple public indecency convictions is a class 1 misdemeanor.4

5. What are defenses to public indecency charges?

There are a number of possible defenses to charges of public indecency. The police may even try and charge someone for public indecency if they are breastfeeding their child in public. However, Colorado law permits a mother to breastfeed in any place she has the right to be.5 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 intimate parts were not exposed,
  • There was no one around to be offended,
  • Mistaken identity, or
  • False accusations.

6. Related Offenses

Public indecency in Colorado is closely related to indecent exposure under C.R.S. 18-7-302. Indecent exposure is a more serious offense, which requires registry as a sex offender. Indecent exposure generally requires showing genitalia for the purpose of sexual arousal or performing an act of masturbation in front of another person.

6.1 Indecent Exposure, C.R.S. 18-7-302

Exposing your genitals to another person is considered indecent exposure and a violation of Colorado law. 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 prison and a $5,000 fine. A conviction for indecent exposure may also require you to register as a sex offender.

Call us for help...

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If you were accused of public indecency, 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.

Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 18-7-301
  2. C.R.S. 18-7-301(2)(b)
  3. C.R.S. 16-22-102(9)(z)
  4. C.R.S. 18-3-412.5
  5. C.R.S. 25-6-302

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