Laws and Penalties for Indecent Exposure in Texas
In Texas, certain laws govern the types of behavior that people can engage in while they are in public places. Of course, dangerous or violent activities such as robbery and assault are banned. However, other activities that may disturb the public peace or offend the sensibilities of other people may be banned as well.
A common example of this is the act of indecent exposure. A person who exposes certain parts of their body in a public place in a way that offends other people may be guilty of indecent exposure. Breaking indecent exposure laws can lead to arrest, detention and criminal charges. A person who is convicted of this charge may face serious, long-lasting consequences.
What Is Indecent Exposure?
Section 21.08 of the Texas Penal Code clearly spells out the legal definition of indecent exposure. Under the law, a person can be convicted of this crime if they:
Expose their anus or any part of their genitals with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person and if they are reckless about whether or not another person is present who may be offended or alarmed by the act
Simply put, a person who inappropriately exposes their private parts or their buttocks in public and directs this action at a particular person or if they aren’t careful to make sure no one else is around who may be offended by the sight.
According to the wording of this statute, it’s not necessary for another person to be alarmed or offended by the actual act of indecent exposure in order for charges to be filed. The law simply states that a person who exposes himself or herself and is reckless about whether or not another person may be present may be guilty. According to this statue, a person may be arrested and charged with this offense even if no one else is around at the time. For example, a person who commits indecent exposure and is captured on a security camera’s footage may be charged with this offense.
Jeremy and his friends are attending a parade in the downtown area of their city. Some of their friends from school are participating in the parade and are riding on one of the floats. When the float passes by, Jeremy and his friends drop their pants and “moon” their friends on the float. They may be charged with indecent exposure because many of the parade spectators were or could have been offended or alarmed by the act. However, if Jeremy and his friends can prove that their act was simply a prank and sexual gratification was not their goal, they may not be convicted of this charge.
In another example, Martin goes to a city park as night is falling. He wears a trench coat but underneath, he is completely nude. He approaches people at the park and opens his coat to “flash” them. This gives him a sexual thrill and he then runs away to escape the park. If park visitors call the police, Martin can be arrested, charged and convicted of indecent exposure. This is because he intentionally and deliberately exposed his genitals to people with full knowledge that they could be offended or alarmed for the express purpose of sexual gratification.
Legal Penalties and Related Offenses
In the state of Texas, the penal codes lists indecent exposure as a Class B misdemeanor. This means that a person convicted of this offense may be sentenced to:
- Up to 180 days in county jail
- A fine of up to $2000
A person who is repeatedly convicted of indecent exposure offenses may have their charge upgraded to a more serious penalty category, resulting in more jail time and higher fines. Additionally, a person who is repeatedly convicted of this offense may potentially be ordered to register as a sex offender in Texas.
If a person exposes themselves in public for the purpose of engaging in sex with a consensual partner, they may be charged with public lewdness in addition to indecent exposure.
A person who commits the crime of indecent exposure with a victim who is a child aged 17 or under may be charged with indecency with a child, a much more serious offenses. A person convicted of this crime may be convicted of a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by:
- Up to 10 years in Texas state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
If a person is charged with indecent exposure, they may have valid defenses to use in a court of law. In order to convict someone of this crime, the prosecution must prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that they must prove that:
- The defendant actually exposed himself or herself for the purpose of sexual gratification
- The defendant was reckless about the presence of others who may be alarmed or offended
A criminal defense attorney may be able to fight these charges by introducing evidence to show that the defendant had no sexual motivation and was not reckless.
For example, the lawyer may argue that the alleged exposure never took place if there is not enough evidence to prove that it happened. The lawyer may also argue that the defendant was simply looking for a place to relieve themselves when they could not find a restroom. If this strategy is successful, the charges against the defendant may be dropped or reduced.