Indecent Exposure and Lewdness

Many people think of indecent exposure as involving a flasher, or someone exposing themselves to other people in order to shock or offend them. However, there are many other actions that could accidentally lead to an arrest for indecent exposure. If you've been arrested, make sure you don't end up with a conviction that could impact future job prospects, and leave you with a permanent criminal record for a simple mistake.

Massachusetts Indecent Exposure Law

Under Massachusetts law, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor, and is included under the same General Law section as "street walkers." In order to convict a person for indecent exposure, the prosecution has to prove three elements:

  1. The defendant exposed his or her genitals to one or more people;

  2. The exposure was intentional; and

  3. One or more people were offended by the exposure.

Even if someone exposed their genitals to someone, and that person was not bothered by it, that may be a defense to indecent exposure. Dancers at a gentleman's club are generally not charged under this law because the patrons who go to these clubs are aware of what takes place inside, and would not be offended by exposure. Furthermore, there is no requirement that the exposure need be intended to shock someone or offend someone. For example, a person who lays out clothes-less at the beach, with no thoughts to the other people around, could be charged under this law. Public urination, sex in public, or participation in events such as the World Naked Bike Ride are other examples of the kinds of activity that could lead to arrest for indecent exposure.

Open and Gross Lewdness and Lascivious Behavior

Under Massachusetts law, open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior is a felony. In order to convict a person under this statute, the prosecution has to prove five elements:

  1. The defendant exposed his or her genitals, buttocks or female breasts to one or more people;

  2. The exposure was intentional;

  3. The defended intended public exposure or there was a substantial risk of public exposure;

  4. The exposure was to produce alarm or shock; and

  5. One or more people were alarmed or shocked by the exposure.

Examples of open and gross lewdness could include flashing to alarm someone, public masturbation, or sex in a location where there is a substantial risk that the public could encounter the act.

Indecent Exposure and Open and Gross Lewdness Penalties

A first-time conviction for indecent exposure is punishable as a misdemeanor, by up to six (6) months in jail, and a fine of up to $200. Indecent exposure can be a lesser included offense of open and gross lewdness.

Open and gross lewdness is a much more serious charge, and is punishable as a felony. Additionally, a second or subsequent conviction under this charge will require the defendant to register as a sex offender.

Sex Offender Registration

The Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) handles the registration of people classified as sex offenders residing in the state. Registered sex offenders are required to register with local law enforcement or school officials, and re-register any time they move. Failure to timely register will result in penalties including additional prison time.

Most sex offender registry information is publicly available through the police department or online through searchable databases. Anyone in the local community can do a simple website search to identify area sex offenders, which details their full name, physical description, home and work address, specific offenses, and even a photograph.

Depending on the crime committed, being classified as a sex offender could result in a lifetime reporting requirement. For many sex offenses, registration is required for twenty years after being released from prison. However, for offenses against children, sex offender registration is a lifetime mandatory requirement.

Defenses to Indecent Exposure

Possible defenses include demonstrating that there was no exposure, the viewer mistakenly thought they saw genitals, or the exposure was accidental. Defenses to open and gross lewd conduct could include that the exposure was not intended to shock, or that they were in a place where it was unreasonable to expect a member of the public would see them.

A legal team with experience defending clients accused of exposure or lewd conduct will investigate the case, examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged act and arrest, and analyze all possible defenses in order to determine the legal strategy to defend their client against every criminal charge. Contact Dhar Law LLP in Boston, MA today at 617-391-0592.