Indecent Exposure

California’s Penal Code Section 314 makes it a crime for someone to willfully expose their private parts or naked body in public or in the presence of another individual who finds the sight annoying or offensive. The statute further describes the crime as the act of willfully exposing your private parts for sexual gratification. Even though a first offense is a misdemeanor, subsequent offenses attract felony penalties. Furthermore, both misdemeanor and felony convictions make registering as a California sex offender mandatory. If you face charges for indecent exposure in Santa Ana, CA, it is in your best interest not to take the matter lightly. We invite you to contact Darwish Law for reliable legal representation and expert help in navigating your case.

Registering as a sex offender for ten years following a Tier I indecent exposure conviction can have a severe impact on your professional and social life. You must make it your number one priority to find a seasoned criminal defense attorney that can help you fight the charges. Whether you exposed yourself willfully as purported or accidentally, the right lawyer can make a positive impact in the outcome of your case.

Indecent Exposure Defined

Under Penal Code 314, the law describes indecent exposure as the crime of willfully exposing your private parts or naked body in public view where any number of persons find the sight offending or annoying. Generally, the offense is any offensive and vulgar exposure (full or partial) of private parts conducted in a public or non-private location.

Moreover, indecent exposure is generally carried out with the intent to enjoy sexual gratification or in an attempt to offend, shock, or arouse another person. Other terms used to describe the offense include sexual misconduct and public lewdness.

Indecent exposure is not one specific act. This is a broad term that also describes any of the following acts:

  • Lascivious and lewd exhibitions
  • Full or partial body nudity (especially of the genitals) in public view or a non-private area
  • Publicly mimicking an act associated with sexual activity
  • Intentional actions that draw attention to your full or partial nudity
  • Urinating in public

Aggravated Indecent Exposure

Aggravated indecent exposure is charged as a wobbler offense. The prosecution will impose felony or misdemeanor charges depending on the specifics of an incident. Some of the aggravating factors the prosecution could point to before escalating your charges include:

  • sexual assault/aggravated sexual battery
  • Child abuse
  • Genital exposure to a minor
  • Criminal sexual penetration

Additionally, the prosecution will charge you with aggravated indecent exposure if an incident occurs after entering an inhabited dwelling without consent. The specifics of an incident will determine whether the offense will attract felony or misdemeanor charges.

Indecent Exposure Exceptions

In some instances, indecent exposure is perfectly legal. For example, full-body exposure in an area designated as a nude beach cannot result in criminal charges. It is also not illegal to voluntarily participate in commercial nude dancing. Naturally, the law also pardons you during uncontrolled wardrobe malfunctions. The critical fact in all exemptions is that the perpetrators of indecent exposure lack lascivious intent or sexual motivation.

Elements of Penal Code 314

The prosecution must establish specific elements to prove you are guilty of indecent exposure beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:

  • You willfully exposed your naked body or private parts in the presence of any number of people who felt annoyed or offended by your actions
  • By exposing yourself, you acted lewdly and directed attention to your exposed genitals with the intent to sexually offend another individual or enjoy sexual gratification

Here is an in-depth description of the key terms and phrases used in describing Penal Code 314:


One of the critical terms used is “willfully.” It implies that you are guilty as charged if your actions were intentional and on purpose. Note that this does not mean that the prosecution must establish that you intended to offend someone or break the law. It simply implies that you could be excused if an incident was purely accidental.

Expose Naked Body or Your Private Parts

While revealing “your naked body” is self-explanatory, it is crucial to understand the legal definition of “private parts” in this context. The term defines fully or partially exposed genitals, buttocks, or female breasts (unless when breastfeeding, Civil Code Section 43.3). It is also crucial to note that you are not guilty of indecent exposure if you cover your genitals with underwear, even if you opt for a pretty revealing garment.

In the Presence of Any Number of Persons Who Find the Sight Annoying or Offending

It is also essential to know what constitutes a public or non-private location. Generally, this means you must have an audience. It is challenging for the prosecution to convict you even if you expose your naked body in a “public” location as long as you have no audience. On the other hand, you have a case to answer to if you have an audience who finds the sight of your exposure unwelcome.

So, can you face charges for indecent exposure from your home?

Yes, you can.

Even in your own home or private property, you can be convicted if you “willfully” expose your bare body or genitals in public view and draw attention from other people who find the sight offensive. Again, the prosecution merely needs to establish that your actions were intentional, you had an audience, and the audience found the sight distasteful.

With Intent to Direct Public Attention to Your Genitals

The prosecution will also need to establish that you had intended to draw attention to your private parts. You are less likely to be convicted if the exposure is accidental and someone saw your genitals by chance. On the other hand, you are guilty of the offense even if your victims do not see your private parts, but you willfully put them in the spotlight.

With the Intent to Enjoy Sexual Gratification or Sexually Offend another Person

It is also necessary for the prosecution to establish you had lewd or sexually motivated intentions. You can only be prosecuted if it can be affirmed that you wanted to achieve any of the following:

  • Sexually arouse or gratify yourself
  • Sexually arouse or gratify another person
  • Sexually offend another individual

Penalties for a Penal Code 314 Conviction

A first-time indecent exposure offense is charged as a misdemeanor. However, the charges escalate into a felony in case of repeat offenses or aggravating factors. Some of the factors the prosecution considers before deciding how to classify your charges include:

  • The specifics of an alleged offense
  • Past indecent exposure convictions
  • Criminal history, especially concerning sex offenses
  • Felon status

A first-time indecent exposure conviction attracts the following punishment:

  • Imprisonment for 6 months in county jail
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290

Repeat offenders always face felony charges. Charges are also escalated to a felony if you have a past conviction of lewd acts with a minor (Penal Code 288).

If convicted of felony indecent exposure, the punishment includes:

  • Custody time of 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison
  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Ten-year mandatory sex offender registration

Aggravated indecent exposure is a wobbler offense. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties imposed are as follows:

  • Custody time of 6 months in county jail
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290

A felony conviction for aggravated indecent exposure is punishable by:

  • Custody time of 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison
  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Mandatory sex offender registration for 10 years

Other Penalties

As noted above, any conviction for indecent exposure is accompanied by the duty to register as a California sex offender for a minimum of 10 years. This is irrespective of whether you face charges for misdemeanor or felony indecent exposure. Also, note that the 10-year registration requirement is for Tier I offenders. You have to register for 25 years for a Tier II offense and a lifetime for a Tier III offense.

It is also crucial to understand that failure to register as demanded under Penal Code 290 is a felony if convicted of felony indecent exposure. A Penal Code 290 felony conviction is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison. On the other hand, failure to register as a sex offender following an indecent exposure misdemeanor conviction is a misdemeanor. The punishment for such an offense is 1 year in county jail.

Moreover, a conviction that calls for sex offender registration could affect your professional license and lead to the denial of your child custody and visitation rights. If you are not an American citizen, you could lose your green card or visa or be deported.

Best Defenses to Fight Penal Code 314 Charges

There are several defenses available for fighting indecent exposure charges. They include:

Lack of Intent

One of the elements that the prosecution must establish before a conviction is that you acted “willfully.” You are not guilty of indecent exposure if your actions were unintentional. For instance, urinating in public is commonly charged as indecent exposure. However, if nature comes calling and you attempt to hide from public view before relieving yourself, you are not guilty of indecent exposure. The prosecution can only convict you if you decide to pee in public view, such as at a roadside utility hole.

Likewise, you can claim lack of intent if you face charges after exposing your naked body while in your home or private property. Your attorney can fight the charges by arguing that you had not noticed the open curtains or you believed you did not have an audience.

Audience Consent

Depending on the location of an incident, claiming you had the consent of your audience can get you off the loop. Bear in mind that the prosecution must establish that the sight of your naked body or exposed genitals made someone else offended or annoyed. If your audience consented to your unclothed show, it is unlikely that you will be convicted of indecent exposure.

Lack of Sexual Motivation

For indecent exposure to be a crime and violation of Penal Code 314, an incident must be sexually motivated. Therefore, another defense is that your actions lacked sexual motivation. For instance, it could be that you pulled down your pants to relieve yourself in public simply because you were pressed and could not find an area hidden from public view. Your attorney could also argue that you went through an unexpected wardrobe malfunction.

Insufficient Evidence

Each element of Penal Code 314 is crucial to ensuring a fair trial where a defendant is convicted after the prosecution establishes they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That said, it is not enough for a prosecutor to merely prove “some of the elements.”

For instance, John drives to a park wearing a trench coat and nothing else underneath. He steps out of the car and flings open the garment to reveal his naked body. To his dismay, there is no audience. He closes the coat and walks around only to bump into the police, who impose indecent exposure charges because of his “suspicious” wardrobe choice.

So is John guilty of indecent exposure?

Legally, he cannot be convicted of the crime. He had sexually motivated intentions and even exposed his naked body in a public location. However, the prosecution cannot establish that someone found his actions offensive or annoying. This makes building a case against John impossible, and he must be acquitted.

Mistaken Identity/False Allegations

Incidents of mistaken identity or outright false allegations are not new. This is more so when dealing with offended victims with ulterior motives. For instance, a “nosy Karen” may be walking her dog one evening when she sees what appears to be the naked figure of her neighbor standing in front of the window. She quickly walked away while calling the police to report what she thought she saw.

Your lawyer could argue that she mistook your home for one of the other identical homes in your estate. The expert can even attack Karen’s character based on past incidents to discredit her testimony. Better yet, the attorney can introduce evidence showing that you were in a different location at the time of the alleged incident.

You Were Not in a Public or Non-Private Location

It is illegal to expose your naked body from a private location such as your house if it allows a public view. Likewise, it is illegal to walk around naked in your yard if the site allows any number of audiences.

So, what if you have a nice, long fence designed to keep off prying eyes?

You cannot be convicted of indecent exposure if your neighbor opts to snoop around and comes across the sight of your naked body relaxing by the pool. The proper fence protects you from public view, making you innocent of the offense. If anything, you can countersue your neighbor for invasion of privacy.

A competent criminal defense attorney can use a variety of excellent defenses to beat indecent exposure allegations. A proper strategy will increase the odds of having your charges reduced or dropped. When your freedom, rights, and livelihood are at stake, you owe yourself the favor of contacting a skilled defense team with a proven track record. We strongly recommend reaching out to Darwish Law for dedicated legal assistance.

Is Intoxication a Viable Defense?

Generally, you are still legally responsible for your actions if you willfully decide to consume alcohol or drugs. However, claiming you were intoxicated can be a mitigating factor when fighting indecent exposure charges. With a strong argument, it is not a guarantee that the prosecution will drop your case. However, there is a high likelihood of facing charges for a lesser offense, perhaps one that does not require sex offender registration.

Offenses Related to Penal Code 314

Penal Code 314, indecent exposure, is closely related to various offenses. Depending on the facts of a case, these related crimes could be charged instead of or alongside indecent exposure.

They include:

  • Penal Code 647(a) — Lewd conduct in public
  • Penal Code 288 — Lewd conduct with a minor
  • Penal Code 602— Trespass
  • Penal Code 415 PC —Disturbing the peace
  • Penal Code 647(b) — Solicitation of prostitution

Find a Sex Crimes Attorney Near Me

An indecent exposure conviction can trigger years of mandatory sex offender registration apart from jail time and fines. If you face charges for this offense in Santa Ana, CA, you must seek legal counsel from a skilled criminal defense attorney. At Darwish Law, we have a team of lawyers with trial experience. We can anticipate the potential moves of prosecutors as they build a case and know the defenses that work to provide the best outcome. Call us at 714-887-4810, and let us give you a real chance at avoiding the potentially devastating repercussions of an indecent exposure conviction.