Every state has statutes that are intended to protect the public. In Pennsylvania, laws prohibiting indecent exposure and public lewdness are meant to prevent members of the public, particularly children, from being exposed to indecent, sexual, and other lewd and lascivious behavior that should remain private. What exactly does lewdness or lasciviousness mean? The definition for these two things is sexual behavior on the part of a person that is obvious and offensive in some way to others. While these types of laws are important, it is essential that they are appropriately implemented and not used to punish you for living your life. You should not be arrested and charged with a crime for normal behavior, such as breastfeeding, wearing revealing clothing, showing affection in public, or an accident.
If you have been wrongly charged with indecent exposure or open lewd conduct or behavior, you need to hire a Pittsburgh sex crime attorney to defend you. Our legal team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC is ready to take on your case. Contact us at (412) 281-2146 to schedule a free consultation.
Indecent Exposure Charges in Pennsylvania
Under 18 Pa. Code §3127, relating to lewd and lascivious behaviors, you may be charged with indecent exposure if you expose your genitals in a public place or anywhere there may be other people who you know or should know will likely be offended or alarmed by such an act.
To be convicted of this sex offense, prosecutors must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You willfully exposed your genitals.
- You were in a public place or where members of the public could see you.
- You knew or should have known people would be offended or alarmed.
Prosecutors do not necessarily have to prove that you intended for anyone to be offended. You do not have to have malicious or criminal intent to be convicted.
Examples of Indecent Exposure
Some typical examples of indecent exposure include:
- Mooning or flashing people in passing vehicles.
- Streaking across a sports field during an event.
- Urinating in a public park with families around.
- Having consensual intercourse in a public restroom.
However, breastfeeding in public is not a criminal offense in Pennsylvania. You will not be arrested and charged with a crime for feeding your child since Pennsylvania does not consider breastfeeding indecent, obscene, or a nuisance.
Open Lewdness Charges in Pennsylvania
Under Pa. Code §5901, you can be charged with a crime if you conduct any lewd act that you know is probably going to be seen by others who will be affronted or alarmed by your action. Examples of lewd and lascivious conduct would include groping or unwanted sexual contact with another person, sexually touching oneself in a public place, or forcing others to touch each other in a sexual manner.
To be convicted, prosecutors must prove each element of the offense:
- You willfully performed a lewd act.
- You knew you could be seen by members of the public.
- You knew those who could see you would be offended by the act.
Like indecent exposure, prosecutors do not have to prove you intended to offend anyone by your actions.
However, while indecent exposure requires you to be in a public place, a lewd act does not have to take place in public to be unlawful. You can be charged with open lewdness for conduct that takes place in your home, yet in front of an open window or open area where people from the street or sidewalk can see in. For example, you may be charged if you stand naked or perform a sexual act in front of an uncovered window or on a porch.
Penalties for Indecent Exposure & Open Lewdness
Open lewdness is a third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. It is a relatively minor offense, yet if convicted, you can be penalized with up to one year in prison with fines up to $2,500.
Indecent exposure is typically charged as a second-degree misdemeanor. You may be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined a maximum of $5,000. If you knew or should have known that someone younger than 16 years old was present when you exposed your genitals, then you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. This is a more serious offense and is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines reaching $10,000.
The penalties for indecent exposure and open lewdness do not stop at incarceration and fines. A permanent criminal record can impact your ability to:
- Go to college or graduate school
- Obtain private scholarship and grants for school
- Obtain a professional license
- Find and maintain a job
- Rent an apartment
- Be approved for a loan
- Maintain or gain more child custody or visitation
- Obtain a visa renewal, permanent residency, or citizenship
Defending Against Indecent Exposure & Open Lewdness
If you have been charged with public lewdness, then you should hire an attorney to protect yourself in court. There are several different defenses available to you, such as:
- The exposure was accidental or you lacked intent.
- No lewd or indecent exposure occurred.
- You did not know you were in public.
- You did not know members of the public could see you.
- You did not know others would be offended or alarmed by your conduct.
To determine which defense strategy is strongest in your situation, contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC as soon as you can.
Let a Pittsburgh Indecent Exposure Lawyer Help
After being charged with indecent exposure or public lewdness, your first step should be to call a lawyer near you. Any time you face serious criminal charges, you need an experienced and aggressive attorney to protect your rights, analyze your case, and implement the strongest defense strategy possible. A sex crimes defense attorney will protect you throughout a police investigation, ensuring you do not accidentally incriminate yourself or say something the prosecution can use against you. Then, your lawyer will fight for the charges to be dismissed, dropped, or reduced.
Here in Greensburg and Pittsburgh, PA, our team has established relationships with local prosecutors and judges, which can help in this endeavor. If prosecutors move forward with criminal charges, then we will build you the strongest defense strategy possible. We will do all we can to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case, such as defending you in court or negotiating a plea bargain.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we represent individuals against all types of sex offenses. Contact us today at (412) 281-2146 to set up a free, initial case consultation.