Indecent Exposure

A charge of indecent exposure is considered to be a “sex offense” in the eyes of the Massachusetts legislature and courts. Although it is considered to be one of the less serious sex crimes, any crime that is perceived to be sexual in nature is typically viewed as socially repugnant and simply being charged with this type of offense may have serious social repercussions, separate and apart from any legal consequences.

Under G. L. c. 272, § 53, the crime of indecent exposure involves the following three elements:

  1. That the defendant exposed his or her genitals to one or more people;
  2. That the defendant did so intentionally; and
  3. That one or more people were offended by the defendant exposing him or herself.

As to the first element, it is important to note that the crime of indecent exposure is a misdemeanor and only applies to the exposure of genitalia and does not apply to the exposure of the genital area, public hair, buttocks, or female breasts. An individual’s genitals must be exposed in order for him or her to be charged. This is in contrast to the more serious felony charge of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior under G. L. c. 272, § 16, which includes the intentional exposure of genitalia, buttocks, or female breasts, and has the additional element that it must be done in such a way as to produce actual alarm or shock.

As to the second element, in determining whether a defendant acted “intentionally,” Massachusetts law gives the word “intentional” its ordinary meaning of acting voluntarily and deliberately as opposed to accident or negligence. It is not necessary that the defendant knew that he or she was breaking the law, but it is necessary that he or she intended the act which constitutes the offense to occur. A person’s intoxication or mental disease may negate intent.

Examples of indecent exposure include:

  • urinating in public
  • display or nudity in sight of the general public
  • exposing genitalia in public, for example on public transportation, or in a park)
  • masturbating in sight of the general public, even if you are in your own home or car.

Charges of indecent exposure are concerning and may result in imprisonment. Someone convicted of indecent exposure faces up to six months in jail. Fortunately, an individual convicted under this statute is not required to register a sexual offender, however a conviction for such an offense may, as discussed above tarnish an individual’s reputation and cause other collateral consequences. Such collateral consequences may result in lack of admission or access to educational opportunities, suspension from school, difficulty obtaining opportunities, and/or eviction or denial of certain housing.

With potential jail time and negative collateral consequences, anyone who has been accused of this offense needs a skilled attorney who has experience handling allegations of this nature. As with most cases, the best defense strategy will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. Potential defenses include 1) lack of actual exposure – i.e., the genitals were not actually exposed; (2) lack of intent – i.e., that the defendant did not intend the act to occur; or (3) that no one was offended by the defendant’s actions.

Regardless of which defense may be the most effective, the value of a skilled attorney with experience handling such allegations cannot be underestimated given the potential penalties and social stigmas associated with this type of offense. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is such an attorney and is fiercely dedicated to determining and presenting the best possible defense for all his clients. Attorney Cappetta understands that swift and thorough investigation, expert consultation, and persuasive presentation and argument to a jury are all crucial pieces of a defense. He undertakes each of these responsibilities for all his clients. If you or a loved one is facing the above referenced charges, contact Massachusetts criminal defense attorney Daniel Cappetta today for a free consultation and put his extensive experience to work for you.