Indecent Exposure Defense Attorney in Houston
Sex charges tend to bring condemnation from the public no matter what the charge or, for that matter, whether the defendant has been found guilty or has merely been arrested. The assumption among many people is that anyone charged with a sex crime must be guilty and should be treated as such.
While indecent exposure is a class B misdemeanor, the offense can, if you are convicted, have a significant effect on both your reputation and on your future, including your employment opportunities. In some cases, it can lead to mandatory registration as a sex offender.
If you are facing a charge of indecent exposure, it is essential to find a Houston sex crimes lawyer who understands the nature of the charge and the defenses that may be applicable. Contact the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak for a free consultation.
What is Indecent Exposure in Texas?
Indecent exposure may appear to be a very simple offense, for example, showing one’s private parts to another person, perhaps in a public place. But the definition in the Penal Code, although rather brief, contains a number of elements. Establishing reasonable doubt as to any one of those elements will lead to a dismissal or a not guilty verdict.
Section 21.08 states that in order to commit the offense of indecent exposure you must:
- Expose your anus or genitals,
- With the intent to gratify or to arouse your or another person’s sexual desire, and
- Act recklessly about whether there is another person present who will be alarmed or offended by the act.
According to the express terms of the statute, you need not only to expose certain specific areas of your body to another person, but also do so for sexual gratification, and act recklessly when it comes to whether another person is present who might be offended by your act.
While the law does not require that you expose yourself in a public place, you must act with a sexual motive, and be “reckless” as to the effects of your actions. Recklessness is specifically defined in section 6.03(c), which says that you act recklessly only when you are aware of – but consciously disregard – a substantial risk that certain circumstances exist, in this case the presence of another person who will be offended by your act.
The point is that while the definition of the offense of indecent exposure appears to be simple, it contains multiple elements, each one of which must be established beyond a reasonable doubt in order to support of finding of guilt. Each of the elements can be disputed, in many cases successfully. Here are a couple of examples of potential indecent exposure:
- Example 1: You are undressing in the backyard of your home after sunbathing, changing from a bathing suit to casual clothing. You are aware that (and ignore) the fact that someone passing by could see you and might be offended. But it’s been a long day, and you’re just too tired to go back into the house to change. While you understand that you (including your private parts) might be seen by someone, your sole motivation is to change your clothes. You are not guilty of indecent exposure, because there is no sexual intent.
- Example 2. Same scenario as example 1, except that you know there is a particular person who passes by your backyard at about the time you are changing your clothes, and you think you might sexually arouse that person (or yourself) if he/she were to see you undressing with your genitals in view. In fact, the person sees you and is seriously offended. You may be charged with indecent exposure, because there is evidence supporting each of the elements of the offense: you exposed yourself; there was a sexual motive; and there is evidence of recklessness as to whether a passerby would be offended by your actions.
Clearly, every case is different, and the result often hinges on the knowledge and/or intent of the defendant.
Is Indecent Exposure a Serious Offense?
It is true that indecent exposure is a class B misdemeanor. This is the same classification that applies to minor offenses such as possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, theft of property worth between $100 and $750, and certain disorderly persons offenses, including obstructing a roadway, failure to obey a request to move by a fireman, disrupting a meeting, and certain types of harassment.
On the other hand, because it is a sex crime, it is accompanied by additional issues and problems. The first is that public opinion on these types of crimes tends to be swift, negative and judgmental. Your reputation can suffer a massive blow by the mere existence of the charge. In addition, the longer the charge lingers, the greater the potential damage to your reputation. Finally, a second conviction could lead to the requirement that you register as a sex offender.
All things considered, an indecent exposure charge has much more serious consequences than those usually attributable to a class B misdemeanor.
Defending Indecent Exposure Charges in Houston
At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we understand the pressures that accompany any sex charge. We also understand that you want and need an honest evaluation of your case from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you are charged with indecent exposure, contact us to schedule a free consultation.