Nevada "Indecent or Obscene Exposure" Laws (NRS 201.220)
(Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

Definition

Nevada law prohibits indecent or obscene exposure. This is defined as a person bearing his/her own -- or another person's -- genitalia or anus. It makes no difference whether the exposure occurs in public or in a private area where the public can see in, such as through a window.

Penalties

A first offense of violating NRS 201.220 is a gross misdemeanor. The punishment carries:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

A subsequent offense is a Category D felony. The punishment carries:

  • 1 - 4 years in prison, and
  • a possible fine of up to $5,000

Furthermore, the court orders indecent exposure defendants to register as a sex offender. However, low-risk offenders are not searchable to the public.

In many cases, a defense attorney can persuade the prosecutor to plea bargain criminal charges down to a lesser offense or a dismissal.

Defenses

A judge may dismiss charges of indecent exposure if:

  • The police misidentified the defendant,
  • The defendant was falsely accused,
  • The exposure was not indecent or obscene, and/or
  • The exposure was accidental


In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:

indecent exposure in Nevada law
Indecent exposure in Nevada is when someone intentionally exposes the genitals or anus of him/herself or another person.

1. What is the legal definition of indecent or obscene exposure in Nevada?

It is a crime in Nevada for people to expose themselves or other people in an indecent or obscene way.1 According to the Nevada Supreme Court, this encompasses exposing a person's genitalia or anus.2

In practice, Nevada police also arrest women for going topless and arrest men or women for mooning. But according to the Nevada Supreme Court, NRS 201.220 does not prohibit exposing breasts or buttocks.3

Therefore, defendants charged with indecent exposure for flashing their breasts or backsides should eventually get the cases dismissed once their attorneys remind the D.A. of the Nevada Supreme Court's interpretation of NRS 201.220. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:

Example: Tom and Jan join their friends for a party at the Fiesta. After getting drunk, Tom takes off his underwear, and Jan flashes her breasts. A cop books them both at the Henderson Detention Center for indecent exposure. But Jan's case should get dropped because NRS 201.220 does not criminalize bearing one's breasts. However Tom could be convicted because NRS 201.220 does prohibit bearing one's genitalia.

Most NRS 201.220 cases involve flashers, exhibitionists, or people engaged in sexual activity in public. Many defendants are partiers, patrons of adult bookstores, or people hooking up in parks or bathrooms.

Note that a person does not have to be around other people to be convicted of indecent exposure. North Las Vegas defense attorney Neil Shouse explains.

Example: John is walking around without clothes in his Reno home, where the shutters to the windows are all open. If caught, Tom could be booked at the Washoe Detention Facility for indecent exposure.

It is irrelevant in the above example that John is alone or that no one else actually witnessed it. By walking around unclothed in front of open windows where others could see him, John is inviting prosecution for indecent exposure.4

Note that it is not considered indecent or obscene exposure in Nevada for a mother to breastfeed her child. For more information, see our article on Nevada breastfeeding laws.5

Also note that going to the bathroom in public can also lead to indecent exposure charges. For more information, see our article on Nevada urination in public laws.6

2. Do I have to register as a sex offender if I am convicted of indecent exposure in Nevada?

indecent exposure in Nevada law

Yes. However, NRS 201.220 defendants convicted of a gross misdemeanor instead of a felony are usually classified as low-risk Tier I offenders. Tier I offenders cannot be searched in the Nevada Sex Offender Registry.

Only Tier II and Tier III offenders...which pose higher risks of re-offending...are searchable through the database.7

3. What are Nevada's penalties for indecent exposure?

The punishment for violating NRS 201.220 turns on whether the defendant had prior sex crime convictions:8

NRS 201.220 charge Punishment

First offense (defendant has no previous indecent exposure convictions or other sex offense convictions)

Gross misdemeanor:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines, and
  • sex offender registration

Subsequent offense (defendant has at least one previous indecent exposure conviction or another sex offense conviction)

Category D felony:
  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • a possible fine of up to $5,000, and
  • sex offender registration

First or subsequent offense in the presence of a child under 18 or a disabled person

Category D felony:
  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • a possible fine of up to $5,000, and
  • sex offender registration

Note that judges do take extenuating circumstances into account when doling out punishments. For example, a person who strips in a public place would probably receive a harsher punishment than someone who walks naked in front of an open window at home without realizing it.

3.1. Plea bargains

indecent exposure in Nevada law

Depending on the situation, the prosecutor may be willing to reduce the NRS 201.220 charge to a misdemeanor such as disorderly conduct that carries no sex offender registration.

If the defense attorney can demonstrate to the Clark County District Attorney that the evidence is insufficient or inadequate to sustain a conviction, the D.A. may drop the charges completely.

4. What are the defenses to Nevada charges of indecent exposure?

Which defenses would work best in fighting charges of violating NRS 201.220 depend on the unique circumstances of the case. The following are four common defense strategies:

  1. Misidentification
  2. False accusations
  3. Exposure was legal
  4. Exposure was accidental

Note that it is not a defense to NRS 201.220 charges that the defendant had no intention to offend anyone.9

4.1. Misidentification

It is not uncommon for the wrong person to be arrested for a crime someone else committed. This is especially typical in large crowds, where police may have trouble distinguishing between suspects.

Example: Wendy is attending the Electric Daisy Carnival when a policeman suddenly arrests her for flashing her vagina to the band. Wendy knows she is innocent, so her defense attorney obtains surveillance video of the event. The footage shows that the woman next to Wendy flashed but that Wendy remained clothed the whole time. When the D.A. sees that the police simply made a mistake and apprehended the wrong person, Wendy's charges get dismissed.

Other evidence that may be valuable in these types of cases includes eyewitnesses and photographs. If the defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt, criminal charges cannot stand.

4.2. False accusations

indecent exposure in Nevada law

It is also not uncommon for people to falsely claim that their enemies have violated the law. Often, their motivation is to avenge some perceived wrong or to channel their anger.

But an experienced criminal defense attorney would try to find evidence that would impeach the accuser's trustworthiness.

Example: Barbara is angry that she was rejected from her favorite sorority at UNLV. She leaves several angry voicemails with the sorority president Jennifer claiming that she would be sorry for rejecting her. Then Barbara calls campus police and claims she saw Jennifer on the quad sunbathing nude. Police arrest Jennifer. But when her defense attorney plays the voicemail for the D.A., the D.A. figures that Barbara made up the whole story and drops the charge against Jennifer.

Note that Barbara in the above example could face criminal prosecution herself for filing a false police report.

4.3. Exposure was legal

Sometimes police take a more conservative approach than what the law requires and arrest people for lawful exposure.

Example: During a Fourth of July parade in Downtown Las Vegas, police see a spectator wearing a very skimpy bikini that shows more flesh than fabric. An officer arrests her for indecent exposure. But when prosecutors look over the photographs taken of her and see that the bikini adequately conceals her genitalia and anus, they drop the charges.

Note that full exposure of a person's private parts is legal in certain licensed strip clubs in Nevada. But people require a work card in order to work lawfully as a stripper.

4.4. Exposure was accidental

Nevada courts do not punish people for accidental or unintentional exposure of their private parts.10

Example: Jennifer is riding an escalator when her skirt gets caught. It pulls off her skirt, revealing that she was not wearing underwear. A security guard sees her in the distance and summons a police officer. But when the police officer learns that Jennifer did not intentionally expose herself, he lets her go without arresting her.

Note that if Jennifer's friend pulled down her skirt as a prank, Jennifer would still not face criminal charges because it was unintentional. But Jennifer's friend could be charged with violating NRS 201.220 for intentionally exposing Jennifer's genitalia.

5. Can I seal a Nevada conviction of indecent exposure?

indecent exposure in Nevada law

Gross misdemeanor convictions of NRS 201.220 violations are sealable two (2) years after the case ends. But felony convictions must always remain on the defendant's criminal record.11

Note that indecent exposure charges that get dismissed can be sealed as soon as the case ends:12

NRS 201.220 conviction Waiting Period for a Record Seal

Gross Misdemeanor

2 years after the case ends.

Category D felony

May never be sealed.

Dismissal (no conviction)

No waiting period.

Learn more about sealing criminal records in Nevada.

6. Can I get deported for indecent exposure?

Probably not. Several courts have determined that displaying one's privates do not qualify as crimes of moral turpitude, which is a deportable class of offenses.13

Still, immigration law is in a constant state of flux, and rules change. Non-U.S. citizens who have been accused of any sex offense should hire a skilled lawyer right away. A lawyer would fight to get the charge dropped or lessened to an offense that poses no risk to the alien's resident status. Learn more about Nevada criminal defense of immigrant laws.

7. What is the difference in Nevada between indecent exposure and open or gross lewdness?

Indecent exposure comprises exposing a person's privates irrespective of whether the motivation is sexual. In contrast, open or gross lewdness (NRS 201.210) refer to sexual acts, specifically:

  • having sexual relations in a place where the public may see, or
  • having non-consensual sexual relations not involving penetration14

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the D.A. may prosecute defendants for committing both indecent exposure as well as open or gross lewdness. An example would be a naked couple having sexual relations in public: The nudity violates NRS 201.220, and the sex act violates NRS 201.210.

Both crimes carry the same penalties.

8. Related crimes

8.1. Las Vegas "Public Urination" Laws

public urination in Nevada

Urinating or defecating in public is a misdemeanor in Las Vegas. The penalties include:

  • up to $1,000 in jails, and/or
  • up to six (6) months in jail

Typically, police issue a citation instead of placing the suspect under arrest.15

8.2. Clark County "Disorderly Conduct" Laws

It is a misdemeanor in Clark County to either:

  1. Participate in a fight, or challenge a person to a fight;
  2. Use profane, indecent or obscene language in addressing another person;
  3. Commit a breach of the peace or incite a disturbance; or
  4. Annoy or harass any other person in a way to incite a disturbance.

The penalties include:

  • up to $1,000 in jails, and/or
  • up to six (6) months in jail

Depending on the extent of the alleged disorderly conduct, police either issue a citation or arrest the suspect.16

8.3. Nevada "Sexual Harassment" laws

The Nevada offense of sexual harassment is when someone pesters or bullies someone in a suggestive way. Depending on the case, sexual harassment may be prosecuted as indecent exposure, open or gross lewdness, rape, extortion, breaching the peacestalking, harassment, assault, battery, peering, coercion, and/or as hate crimes. The penalty turns on the charge.17

702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673)
Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney

If you have been charged with violating NRS 201.220, contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We will try to get the charges dropped or reduced to keep the case off your criminal record and to keep you off the sex offender registry.

We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

¿Habla español? Visita nuestra página web en español sobre las leyes de exposición indecente Nevada

Arrested in California? Go to our article on California indecent exposure law.

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our article on Colorado indecent exposure law.


Legal References

  1. NRS 201.220 Indecent or obscene exposure; penalty.

          1. A person who makes any open and indecent or obscene exposure of his or her person, or of the person of another, is guilty:

          (a) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, for the first offense, of a gross misdemeanor.

          (b) For any subsequent offense, or if the person has previously been convicted of a sexual offense as defined in NRS 179D.097, of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

          (c) For an offense committed in the presence of a child under the age of 18 years or a vulnerable person as defined in paragraph (a) of subsection 8 of NRS 200.5092, of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

          2. For the purposes of this section, the breastfeeding of a child by the mother of the child does not constitute an act of open and indecent or obscene exposure of her body.
  2. State v. Castaneda, 126 Nev. 478, 245 P.3d 550 (2010)("Given the legislature's use of the common law to define Nev. Rev. Stat. § 201.220's terms, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 201.220 is limited to the common law prohibition against open and indecent or obscene exposure of one's genitals or anus."); State v. Castaneda, 126 Nev. 478, 245 P.3d 550 (2010)("Some discretion, to be sure, applies to determining when and where genital exposure may be open and indecent or obscene, but this is not enough to invalidate the statute on void-for-vagueness grounds.").
  3. State v. Castaneda, 126 Nev. 478, 245 P.3d 550 (2010)("under a generally worded indecent exposure statute like NRS 201.220(1), a defendant who displays only his buttocks but not his anus or his genitals does not commit the offense of indecent exposure.").
  4. State v. Castaneda, 126 Nev. 478, 245 P.3d 550 (2010)("Of note, the offense consists of the intentional, open and indecent or obscene exposure, not its visual observation by others."); Ebeling v. State, 120 Nev. 401, 91 P.3d 599 (2004)("We also conclude that NRS 201.220 allows for only one charge of indecent exposure, regardless of the number of victims.").
  5. NRS 201.220; Schmidt v. State, 94 Nev. 665, 584 P.2d 695 (1978)("[Defendant's] six-year sentence does not constitute cruel or unusual punishment for it neither shocks the conscience nor is disproportionate to the offense involved.").
  6. LVMC 10.40.040.
  7. NRS 179D.495; NRS 179D.450; NRS 179D.097.
  8. NRS 201.220.
  9. Young v. State, 109 Nev. 205, 849 P.2d 336 (1993)("A conviction under either NRS 201.210 or NRS 201.220 does not require proof of intent to offend an observer or even that the exposure was observed...It is sufficient that the public sexual conduct or exposure was intentional.").
  10. State v. Castaneda, 126 Nev. 478, 245 P.3d 550 (2010)("A defendant must have intended to expose his or her genitals; accidental exposure is not enough.").
  11. NRS 179.245.
  12. NRS 179.255.
  13. See, e.g., Nunez v. Holder, 594 F.3d 1124 (9th Cir. 2010)("[I]ndecent exposure as defined by Cal. Penal Code § 314, and as construed by California courts, is not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude...").
  14. NRS 201.210.
  15. LVMC 10.40.040.
  16. CCO 12.33.010.
  17. NRS 200.575; NRS 200.471; NRS 200.481; NRS 200.603; NRS 207.190; NRS 205.320; NRS 201.220; NRS 201.210; NRS 200.366; NRS 203.010; NRS 193.1675.

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