Criminal defense attorneys regularly encounter exposure of sexual organs (“indecent exposure”) in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach areas given its massive geographic and social size. Offenders who are arrested for this charge typically fall within three general categories. The first category of people include couples who engage in sex acts in public. The second include people who get arrested and wrongly charged for either urinating in public or committing an act of public nudity. The third category includes people who have a psycho-sexual problem or other mental health issue.
Regardless of the type of category a specific offender may or may not fall into when it comes to indecent exposure, a criminal defense lawyer will apply the same law to each case because the prosecution must prove the same legal elements. To sustain a charge of exposure of sexual organs or “indecent exposure”, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
1) That the defendant was either naked or exposed/exhibited his/her sexual organs.
2) That the defendant was in a public place, the private premises of another party, or was so close to the private premises of another party that he/she could be seen while exposing/exhibiting themselves or being naked.
3) That the defendant intended his/her nudity/exposure/exhibition to be in a “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” fashion.
4) That the defendant’s nudity/exhibition/exposure was done in a “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” fashion.
It is important to note that exposure of sexual organs is a different offense form mere nudity. Nudity, when prosecuted, is usually done by local governments pursuant to municipal codes that outlaw public nudity in certain places. The crime of exposure of sexual organs is different from plain nudity in that it adds the element of lewdness.
In other words, as you can see above, the prosecution must also prove that the defendant not only intended his actions to be in a “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” fashion, but that they were in fact committed in a “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” fashion.
Urinating in public does not qualify, unless it was done in a “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” fashion. The same rule applies to someone who may have been caught changing their clothes in public or skinny dipping in a public swimming pool or at the beach.
As one can imagine, the terms “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” have a special legal meaning that applies to exposure of sexual organs prosecutions. Specifically, these terms refer to “unlawful indulgence in lust or a wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious, or sensual intent” by the person doing the act in question. Put simply, the defendant would have had to have a sexually motivated intention for their actions.
However, an act of exposure is not considered “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” unless they cause offense to at least one person viewing the exposure, unless the act in question somehow intruded on the rights of another.
Additionally, by definition, a “public place” is defined as any location that was designed or intended to be used by the public.
Proving intent may be very difficult for prosecutors. Clearly, if a couple is found having sex in public, their intentions are clear. However, a couple having sex in the backseat of a car in an empty parking garage at night may not intent for anyone to see them at all.
Therefore, from the perspective of a criminal lawyer, the detailed facts of any one case must be scrutinized to determine how they interact with the specific conduct that has been criminalized in Chapter 800.
When a criminal lawyer defends a person accused of exposure of sexual organs, he/she will most likely focus their client’s defense on the issue of intent and the nature of the exposure. While most judges understand the difference between exposure of sexual organs and nudity offenses, most cops do not. In my experience as a criminal defense attorney, I have seen a lot of people wrongly arrested for this offense because many police officers fail to understand that the charge requires a “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” element that actually offends at least one person.