Indecent exposure in California

We do not refer to indecent exposure that is part of sex crimes in California in this article. We explain in detail what it consists of, the penalties involved and the possible defenses.


If you or a family member have been charged with this crime, Lluis Law attorneys can help you. We have over 40 years of legal practice assuming the defense of hundreds of people who were wrongfully accused.

Call now and you will get a free consultation without obligation where we will explain the scope of the law. We can also talk about the options available to you.

Indecent exposure in California in 2020

According to Penal Code 314 PC, the crime of indecent exposure consists of deliberately exposing the genitals to another person. Whenever such action seeks to obtain sexual gratification or is done to offend another person. 

It is generally punishable as a misdemeanor and can carry a prison sentence and registration as a sex offender. The indecent exposure statute was established in 1872 and has since remained unchanged.

Indecent exposure does not have to occur in public to be punished. It is also considered a crime in other situations, although it must have intent and a load of lewdness.

Examples of indecent exposure in California can be:

  • Masturbating or showing the genitals in a plaza or on the street.
  • Urinating in front of others’ eyes deliberately.
  • Showing the penis, anus or vagina with the intention of causing displeasure or for sexual reasons.  
  • Raise your skirt in a restaurant and show your genitals at your own request or request of your partner 
  • Pay someone else to show their private parts in public.
  • Show the penis to a woman in a bar to embarrass her.

The defendant does not have to have touched his genitals to be considered indecent exposure, just show them.

Showing underwear is not considered indecent exposure. Nor do you wear a swimsuit on the street or breastfeed a child on the train or on a bench. What you cannot do is display the breasts for example in someone else’s house where it is not allowed. 

Indecent exposure penalties in California

The criminalization of this crime will depend on several factors. For a first sentence, the sanctions are:

  • Up to six months in prison in a county jail and / or
  • Fine of up to $ 1,000 thousand. 

For a second sentence the crime is classified as serious. It is punished with:

  • Jail term in a state prison.  
  • Register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.

Aggravated indecent exposure

The crime of indecent exposure is aggravated when the genitals are exposed in certain places and circumstances such as: 

  • An inhabited house, trailer, or building.
  • After entering a residence without permission. 

The prosecutor may decide to file indecent exposure as a misdemeanor or felony, as it is a “wobbler.”

Aggravated indecent exposure as a misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison. 

On the other hand, if the crime is classified as serious, it must face: 

  • 16 to two or three years in prison in a state prison.
  • A fine of up to $ 10,000.
  • Register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.

Elements that constitute the crime

In order for a person to be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must prove several elements of conviction:

  • The act was committed voluntarily;
  • There was exposure of the naked body or genitalia;
  • It was done in the presence of another person who could be upset; 
  • Seeking to get the other person’s attention; 
  • In order to obtain sexual excitement or cause discomfort.

The setting where the alleged crime takes place is important. Because, for example, if you are accused of indecent exposure on the beach, the probability of error is high. A wave could tear a person’s bathing suit off while bathing and become naked. 

Being seen naked while the person changed clothes – perhaps in an inappropriate location – could have a defense. Because the defendant had no intention of showing his genitals to people who saw him and were upset. 

Possible defenses for this crime

The most common defenses for the crime of indecent exposure are:  

  • The evidence is not enough, because the accusation is made by an alleged witness and not the victim directly. Police arrest the accused but were unable to prove that there was another person to whom the accused exhibited his genitalia.
  • The defendant never exposed his genitals to only part of his body. 
  • Although there was body exposure, the genitals were never shown. 
  • It is true that there was exposure, but it was not with intention or lewdness, because it was accidental.
  • The alleged victim acted against the accused based on events that never occurred. The purpose of the prosecution was to harm the accused by revenge, retaliation, or anger. 
  • The accused was wrongly identified by the alleged victim for different reasons. At the time of the fact there was little light or visibility, the accused looks like the real culprit. The defendant was at the wrong time and place. 

Offenses related to indecent exposure

There are certain offenses related to this crime such as:  

  • Lewd conduct in public, Penal Code 647 (a) PC. Touching yourself in public indecently can result in an accusation of lewd conduct and indecent exposure.
  • Lewd acts with a child. If the defendant touches the minor while facing him, showing him his genitals.  
  • Robbery – Penal Code 459 PC. When the offender enters a residence without permission and also commits indecent exposure.
  • Burglary – Penal Code 602 PC. If the offender enters private property without permission and commits the crime.
  • Disturbing Peace – California Penal Code 415 PC. In addition to the loud and offensive behavior it shows her genitals.
violent crimes lawyer

Some of the crimes mentioned above appear in our violent crimes lawyer section.

Situations that do not qualify as indecent exposure

  • A woman walking down the street showing her breasts, regardless of intention.
  • Show the genitals in some public place without the presence of any person.

But it is considered indecent exposure if the defendant showed his genitals and the person closed his eyes. That is, what matters legally is not whether the person saw it but the defendant’s intention to show himself.  

There are other cases in which the person can be accused of lewd conduct. 

When does a person engage in lewd conduct?

According to the Penal Code, Section 647 (a), lewd conduct is intentionally touching the intimate parts of oneself or of a woman. The act is performed in a public place in order to achieve sexual satisfaction. 

For example, having sex in a car on a public road or on a beach.  

Difference between indecent exposure and lewd behavior

The most important difference between the two legal concepts is that in indecent exposure only the genitalia are shown. While in lewd conduct the accused caresses himself or another person in public and with sexual intention.

Why is it important to have an expert lawyer?

If you have been charged with this crime it is important that you seek the help of a good sexual crime attorney. Our attorneys have extensive combined experience of more than 50 years dealing with these matters.

At the Lluis Law firm in Los Angeles we provide our clients with the proper legal guidance to achieve better results. When we take a case we investigate it thoroughly and guarantee the defense of your constitutional rights.    

We always fight to the end and, when we consider it appropriate, we reach good sentence reduction agreements. Other times we negotiate a change of name of the imputed crime, according to the circumstances of the fact.


Contact us right now to help you combat indecent exposure charges. We put at your service our experience and work capacity that qualifies us as one of the best criminal law firms in the city.