Indecent exposure is a relatively mild offense. In Illinois, the offense usually results in a charge of Class A misdemeanor unless performed near a school or by a repeat offender.
The law is quite broad and open to a lot of interpretation by officers. What may be seen as indecent exposure by one officer may not be seen as public indecency by another. This makes the trial cases of public indecency rather complicated. Often times, the charges of indecency could be brought against individuals who may not be aware that they have exposed themselves in an indecent manner.State Legislation
The indecent exposure laws are covered under 720 ILCS 5/11-30. The law states that a person commits public indecency when he or she is 17 years or older and performs any of the following acts in a public place.
- An act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct.
- A lewd exposure of the body done with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of the person.
Public place is defined as any area where the act is reasonably expected to be viewed by others.Punishments
Public indecency is a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in prison. A person convicted of a third or subsequent violation for indecency is guilty of a Class 4 felony.
A person can also be charged with a Class 4 felony if he or she is more than 18 years old and commits indecent exposure within 500 feet of an elementary or secondary school when children are present on the school ground.
A Class 4 felony is punishable by 1 – 3 years in prison and fined up to $25,000.Considerations
The interpretation of public indecency is quite broad. For example, public urination might be considered indecent exposure by one officer while another may not believe that the act falls under indecent exposure.
Breastfeeding is another contentious issue. While one officer may not consider the act indecent exposure, another officer may arrest a woman who is breastfeeding in public.
Public indecency is considered a sex crime. While the penalty itself is not severe, those convicted of public indecency on multiple incidents will be registered as sex offenders after serving their sentence.
This can have major repercussions in a person’s life when it comes to getting a job or working in specific fields such as schools or nursing homes. The sex offender charge becomes a permanent part of an individual’s criminal record. Even regular companies are wary of hiring someone with a criminal record as a sex offender.
Minors under the age of 16 cannot be charged with public indecency but they can still face charges of disorderly conduct.Examples and Court Cases
In a recent case, a man charged with indecent exposure was found not guilty by the courts of the crime.
The 55 year old Jose Lopez met a woman at her workplace and started contacting her. The woman agreed to go out with him to restaurants for food and drinks but refused to meet him at a hotel. She later obtained a restraining order against Lopez after he entered her home without permission and persistently texted her.
Two months after the restraining order Lopez texted the woman a picture of his genitals with the message, “me in my glory”. The woman contacted the Sheriff and a deputy arrested Lopez at her home peeking through a window.
Lopez was charged with stalking and indecent exposure in relation to the photo message. The judge sentenced him five years in prison for stalking; however the charge of indecent exposure was dropped.
In his statement the judge acknowledged that while the sexually explicit image can be offensive, it is much easier to look away from the image than it would be to avoid an offensive public exposure. The courts also ruled that in order to follow the definition outlined in the legislation, the offensive display must have been done in the physical presence of the offended person.
Sending an image of one’s genitalia to another person could be charged as harassment but it cannot be charged as public indecency.
In a separate case, a naked man standing in his room was charged with indecent exposure in public and resisting arrest. Glenn Williams 57, of Elmhurst was seen by a witness who told an officer on patrol that there was a naked man in the window while there were kids walking around.
The officer located Williams and tried to arrest him. The man allegedly tried to strike the officer with an object. He was tased and arrested by the officer.
Another man from Sauk Village was charged with public indecency when he was found masturbating inside his van. A female juvenile told the police that she was walking home from school when a person yelled out at her from inside the van.
When she looked over the parked vehicle, she saw the man masturbating in plain sight. The juvenile ran away from the area and notified the police. When they arrived at the scene the van was gone.
The police later learned that Tarik Davis was the owner of the van and he had a history of public indecency arrests.Possible Legal Defenses
The cases of public indecency range from everything from innocent, inadvertent exposure to willful display of nudity and genitalia. There are plenty of cases where people inside their homes and private property are accused of indecent exposure even though they may have had no intention of doing so.
There are two main elements of indecent exposure charges. The first is that the offense took place in a public place. The second is that the person willfully exposed himself/herself.
The legal defense is based on arguing from the perspective of these two points. Consider the case of Glenn Williams who was accused of indecent exposure while he was inside his own home. It would be a reasonable defense in his case that he was on private property and had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The fact that the man became hostile to the officer and tried to resist arrest further suggests that he wasn’t even aware of what he had done wrong.
Another defense available for someone charged with public indecency is that their conduct was not sexual in nature. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution to prove that any intentional sexual act took place in public. There is a wide range of perspectives when it comes to establishing what does or does not constitute a sexual act. This is where an experienced legal defense team can make a difference.