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The Penalties in Texas for Indecent Exposure

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

The Penalties in Texas for Indecent Exposure

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Some might think exposing their private parts is nothing more than a joke, but it could get you into hot water with the Texas courts. A criminal conviction can upend your life by damaging your chances for employment and taking away your freedom.

Interestingly, not all cases of exposure fall under the umbrella of indecent. The prosecution must prove that someone performed the act with the intent to arouse sexual desire. Mooning and streaking may still be considered a prank rather than illegal, but you don’t want to put that to the test.

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What the Law Says Is Indecent Exposure

Texas law says that exposing your private parts to another person with the intent to arouse sexual desire in any person is indecent. Indecent exposure also includes being reckless about whether there is a person present who might be alarmed or offended by the act. Indecent exposure is a form of public lewdness, although the exposure need not occur in a public location.

Private parts include the anus and any part of the genitals. It does not include breasts or buttocks.

If unwanted touching, like groping or attempted rape, occurs, you no longer have indecent exposure — you have sexual assault, a more severe offense.

Conviction comes down to intent or reckless behavior. A person acts intentionally, with respect to the nature of his conduct or a result of his conduct, when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.  

Recklessness is awareness of a substantial, unjustifiable risk associated with a person’s conduct, which is consciously disregarded. There is no time limit for how long you can expose your genitals or anus before the court considers indecent exposure.

An example of indecent exposure is if someone changes clothes in front of a group of people with the intent to cause sexual arousal and is reckless about whether anyone else present would be offended.

Another is a boy streaking at the football game with the intent to arouse sexual feelings in the audience without regard for anyone’s offended feelings. Or someone flashing someone else while recklessly disregarding whether they would be alarmed by the conduct

The Penalties for Indecent Exposure

In many instances, the law considers indecent exposure a Class B misdemeanor. You won’t get more than 180 days in county jail or a fine higher than $2,000. You might be assigned community service or probation. Everything is at the judge’s discretion. Still, a charge of indecent exposure carries a heavy social stigma.

Conviction of a misdemeanor is serious. It is considered more serious than a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of $500 and no jail time. Your record will increase the penalties for subsequent convictions.

Texas does not require you to register as a sex offender upon your first conviction of indecent exposure. However, with a second or subsequent conviction of indecent exposure, you must register as a sex offender for up to ten years following your discharge to supervision. 

The conviction and registration show up on your permanent criminal record. They can affect the type of employment or special licensure you obtain. Many employers will not hire a registered sex offender. Conviction and registration also impact your ability to find housing or apply for specific educational programs. 

If indecent exposure focuses on a child under 17, the prosecution can raise the charge to indecency with a child by exposure, which is a third-degree felony offense. The court could levy fines up to $10,000 and send you to prison for two to ten years.

Impact on Immigration

For non-citizens, the penalties could include deportation. Federal law includes crimes of moral turpitude, which is vaguely defined and could apply to almost any crime.  A charge or conviction of a crime of moral turpitude could be enough to block your application for a visa or green card. You can be deported if you already have a visa, and a conviction of indecent exposure is considered a crime of moral turpitude. 

Such charges can also show a lack of “good moral character,” which is necessary for an application for US citizenship.

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Defenses Against Charges of Indecent Exposure

The best defense is if there is no proof of exposure. Without images or videos, the prosecution may be unable to make its case. Remember, the court must prove exposure of the anus or genitals beyond a reasonable doubt. Lacking reliable witnesses or photographic evidence, the charges might not stick.

Lack of intent is another defense against indecent exposure. Intent can be difficult to prove, and the circumstances might show the exposure as an accident or unintentional. Maybe you were trying to take off your sweatpants at the gym, and your gym shorts went down with them. Or your swimsuit came off when you dove into the pool. 

Neither of these circumstances shows intent unless the prosecution shows you did these things on purpose.

Other defenses against indecent exposure include mental illness, intoxication, and age. An intoxicated person lacks the judgment to make rational decisions, like deciding when to take off your pants — before or after you reach the restroom.

A child is unlikely to have any intent to arouse sexual desire or gratification by taking off their pants or diaper. The prosecution is highly unlikely even to try to make a case against a small child who is naked in public.

Remember we said breasts don’t count? Under Texas law, women have the right to breastfeed babies in public. A woman cannot be convicted of indecent exposure by exposing her breasts to nurse an infant.

Hire an Attorney

If you are facing charges of indecent exposure in Texas, call an experienced criminal attorney to perform a case review. While the case may seem simple, you have a better chance of coming through unscathed with knowledgeable legal assistance on your side.

Call the Office of Greg Tsioros to learn more about defending yourself from charges of indecent exposure.


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