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When is indecent exposure charged as a felony?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 09, 2019 | 0 Comments

indecent exposure california
Aggravated indecent exposure is a wobbler offense in California

While a first-time offense of indecent exposure (“IE”), per Penal Code 314, is charged as a misdemeanor in California, a second offense will result in a felony charge.

Indecent exposure can also be charged as a felony if it is a form of “aggravated” IE.

Indecent exposure itself means a male or female:

  • willfully exposes his/her genitals to someone else, and
  • does so when motivated by a desire to sexually gratify himself/herself or to offend the other person.

Aggravated IE is when a person exposes himself/herself in:

  • in an "inhabited" (lived-in) home, trailer, or building, and
  • does so after entering the home, trailer, or building without permission.

A simple misdemeanor IE charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

A felony indecent exposure charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.

In addition to the above penalties, defendants convicted of IE are subject to a 10-year (minimum) duty to register as a sex offender, per California Penal Code 290 PC. This is regardless as to whether the conviction is for a misdemeanor IE or a felony IE.

What is indecent exposure, per California Penal Code 314?

PC 314 says that the elements of indecent exposure in California are that the defendant:

  • willfully exposed his genitals,
  • he did so in the presence of someone who might be offended or annoyed by his actions, and
  • in exposing himself, he intended to direct public attention to his genitals for the purpose of either

a. sexually gratifying himself or someone else, or

b. sexually offending someone else.

Three examples of IE are:

  1. Jenny shows her breasts in a crowded restaurant to sexually gratify her boyfriend.
  2. Phil flashes his genitals to women on a street corner for his own sexual gratification.
  3. Tim, age 18, exposes his genitals to elderly women at a grocery store with the goal of offending them.

In most cases, a first indecent exposure conviction subjects a defendant to misdemeanor penalties. A second offense is a felony and can lead to a California state prison sentence.

What is aggravated indecent exposure?

Aggravated IE is when a person exposes himself/herself in:

  • in an "inhabited" (lived-in) home, trailer, or building, and
  • does so after entering the home, trailer, or building without permission.

Aggravated indecent exposure is a wobbler offense in California. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:

  1. the facts of the case, and
  2. the criminal history of the defendant.

What are the penalties for a misdemeanor indecent exposure charge?

If convicted of "simple" misdemeanor indecent exposure, a defendant may face:

  • up to six months in a county jail,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000, and
  • a 10-year (minimum) duty to register as a sex offender, pursuant to California Penal Code 290.

Please note that if a defendant is convicted of aggravated IE and it was charged as a misdemeanor, he could face up to one year in jail (and not just six months).

What are the penalties for a felony indecent exposure charge?

A felony indecent exposure charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the California state prison for either 16 months, two years, or three years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000, and
  • a 10-year (minimum) duty to register as a sex offender.

What happens if a person does not register as a sex offender?

If a person is ordered to register as a sex offender, and he/she fails to do so, then the party may be convicted of the California crime of “failure to register as a sex offender,” Per Penal Code 290.

California's Sex Offender Registration Act (also known as “Megan's Law”) requires anyone who lives in California after being convicted of a California sex crime to register with the police of the city or county where they live. This registration has to be renewed:

  • every year, within five working days of the person's birthday, and
  • every time that person moves to a new address.

Knowingly and willfully failing to meet this requirement—even just one time—will lead to charges under California Penal Code 290(b).

These charges can either be misdemeanor or felony charges (depending on the facts of the case). And, the penalties may include:

  • up to three years in imprisonment, and
  • substantial fines.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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