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The Indecent Exposure Laws of Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

The Indecent Exposure Laws of Texas

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Texas law governs the behaviors that people may engage in when they are in a public place. Violent or dangerous acts, such as assault and robbery, are prohibited by law. However, activities that offend another persons’ sensibilities or disturb the peace are also banned.


Indecent exposure is an example of an activity that may offend and disturb the peace of others in a public place in Texas. Indecent exposure, a sex offense, is defined in the Texas Penal Code Section 21.08. An individual commits indecent exposure if he or she exposes the anus or any portion of his or her genitalia with the intent to sexually arouse or sexually gratify any individual and when he or she doesn’t care if another person is alarmed or offended by these actions.

Standard in Indecent Exposure

The statute doesn’t detail the exposure of female breasts or male or female buttocks in the term genitals. The intention of the charged individual must be to gratify or arouse sexual desire in any person. In this way, the statute lessens mens rea from knowing to “recklessness” in the actor’s assessment that another person present would be alarmed or offended at the action.

An objective standard exists for determining offensiveness of the action to another person. It’s not about whether the actor knows that another person might be offended or if others present were offended. The standard concerns an action that would offend or alarm an ordinary individual. By applying the standard, the court said in Hefner v. State that offense experienced by a police officer to whom the defendant displayed his genitals was irrelevant. The issue is whether the actor was “reckless” about whether another person present would be offended by the act.

Breaking the laws concerning indecent exposure may lead to an arrest, detention in jail, and criminal charges.

Legal Examples of Indecent Exposure

Jack and his friends attend an open-air concert in the Houston downtown area. Some other friends of Jack are performing an opening number for the group. When his friends appear on stage, Jack drops his pants to moon the onstage group.

Since many people witness Jack’s action, he may be charged with indecent exposure. Other people at the concert may be alarmed or offended by Jack’s decision to expose his buttocks to everyone. However, if Jack can prove his act was a harmless prank, he didn’t expose his genitals, and that he wasn’t seeking sexual arousal or gratification, he might escape conviction of the charge.

Let’s consider another scenario. Ryan goes for a walk in a city park at dusk. He’s wearing a raincoat but isn’t wearing anything else beneath it. He proceeds to open the coat to flash other passersby in the park. He is obviously sexually aroused as he performs the action several times.

Because three people are offended and disturbed by Ryan’s actions, he may be arrested and charged with indecent exposure. In this example, he might be convicted because he intended to expose his erect penis and genitals to others with the understanding that they might be offended and alarmed. He appears to have performed the act with the intention of gaining sexual gratification.

Legal Defense of an Indecent Exposure Charge

If Jack or Ryan is charged with indecent exposure in Texas, it’s essential to have a valid defense to present in a court of law. To convict either man of the crime in Texas, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant exposed himself with the intention of achieving sexual gratification or arousal.
  • The defendant acted recklessly in the presence of others who might be offended or alarmed at his action.

In Jack’s case, a criminal defense lawyer might argue the indecent exposure charge by introducing witness testimony to show that he wasn’t sexually motivated or reckless in the decision to drop his pants. Jack performed what he thought was a prank and didn’t intend to alarm or offend anyone. He wasn’t seeking sexual arousal or gratification when he performed the action.

Let’s imagine that Jack and his friends were in search of a restroom in downtown Houston. If anyone witnessed Jack in the act of dropping his pants, the attorney could argue that Jack didn’t intend to offend or alarm anyone. After searching for a place to relieve himself, he made the poor decision to urinate in a public place. Since Jack had no intention of seeking sexual gratification, the defense attorney might be successful at reducing the charge or getting it dropped. The prosecutor might find it difficult to prove that indecent exposure took place. There might not be sufficient evidence to make the case.

The criminal defense lawyer may have a larger task in Ryan’s case. Multiple witnesses were flashed by Ryan in the park. Others in the park saw Ryan open his raincoat and told police officers that he was visibly sexually aroused. If the prosecutor argues that Ryan flashed himself to others for the purposes of finding a consensual sex partner, he may also be charged with public lewdness.

Get tough legal defense if you’ve been charged with indecent exposure in Texas.

Indecent Exposure and Breastfeeding

In the absence of a law that protects and establishes a woman’s right to breastfeed a child in Texas, she may be asked to leave the premises of a privately-owned restaurant, shopping area, or other space that’s open to the public.

If the woman refuses to leave the premises when asked, she may be placed under arrest for trespass or subject to removal by the police. It’s possible but rare in this scenario to face an indecent exposure charge.

Indecent Exposure Legal Penalties in Texas

You need an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’re charged with indecent exposure in Texas. If convicted, indecent exposure is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. The convict faces a fine of up to $2,000 plus jail time of up to 180 days in a county facility.

Penalties increase if the convict has prior indecent exposure offenses on his or her record. In that instance, the convict may face an upgraded charge to a higher penalty category that results in greater fines and more jail time. A repeat offender may be required to register as a sex offender in Texas.

If a person commits indecent exposure and a child victim aged 17 or younger is involved, he or she may be charged with a more serious third-degree felony, indecency with a child. If convicted of the crime of indecency with a child, the convicted individual faces up to 10 years in a Texas state prison and fines of up to $10,000. Call Houston defense lawyer Greg Tsioros for a case evaluation now.

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