Definition of Indecent Exposure
Under Section 800.03, Florida Statutes, it is unlawful “to expose or exhibit one’s sexual organs in public or on the private premises of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private premises, in a vulgar or indecent manner, or to be naked in public except in any place provided or set apart for that purpose.”
To prove the crime of indecent exposure (exposure of sexual organs), the prosecution must establish the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant exposed or exhibited his/her sexual organs or was naked;
- The defendant did so in a public place, on the private premises of another, or so near the private premises of another as to be seen from those private premises;
- The defendant intended the exposure or exhibition of his or her sexual organs or nakedness to be in a vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious manner;
- The exposure or exhibition or nakedness was in a vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious manner;
As used in the statute, the terms “vulgar,” “indecent,” “lewd,” and “lascivious” mean the same thing. They mean an unlawful indulgence in lust or a wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious, or sensual intent on part of the person committing the act. Acts are not vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious unless such acts cause offense to one or more persons viewing those acts, or unless the acts substantially intrude upon the rights of others.
A “public place” is defined as any place intended or designed to be frequented resorted to by the general public. For exposure cases involving an act that occurs in a public place, there is no requirement that any person be offended by such act. State v. Kees, 919 So. 2d 504 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2005).
However, a showing that someone was offended is required for exposure cases involving an act occurring on private property outside the view of the general public. Id.
Penalties for Indecent Exposure
In Florida, Indecent Exposure or Exposure of Sexual Organs is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000 fine.
In addition to potential jail penalties, a conviction for Indecent Exposure in Florida will subject the accused to a permanent stigma of having engaged in lewd behavior, and interfere with employment prospects, professional licensing, college applications, and other aspects of your daily life.
Nudity and Breastfeeding
Proof of mere nudity or visibility of a person’s genitals is insufficient to sustain a conviction for Indecent Exposure. In order for nudity to be prosecutable under Section 800.03, Florida Statutes, the exposure must be ‘lewd’ or ‘lascivious’ in nature. Palm Beach lon v. State, 404 So. 2d 196, 197 (Fla. 1st DCA 1981).
Lewd or Lascivious means that there must be some type of sexually-oriented intent that is lustful and/or indulgent. Chesebrough v. State, 255 So.2d 675, at 677, 678 (Fla. 1971).
Thus, appearing nude at the beach, sleeping nude on a dock, or urinating in public does not constitute indecent exposure or exposure of sexual organs. See U.S. v. A Naked Person Issued Notice of Violation No. P419490, 841 F. Supp. 1153 (M.D. Fla. 1993); Goodmakers v. State, 450 So. 2d 888 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984); Payne v. State, 463 So. 2d 271 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984).
The act of breastfeeding a baby is also insufficient to sustain a conviction for indecent exposure. Under Section 383.015, Florida Statutes, breastfeeding is a protected act and defined by the Florida legislature as “an important and basic act of nurture which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values.”
Thus a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.
Constitutionality of Exposure Statute
Florida’s indecent exposure law has so far survived constitutional challenges brought on First Amendment (free speech) grounds and vagueness grounds. Hoffman v. Carson, 250 So. 2d 891, 894 (Fla. 1971). This, however, is not to say the law will survive all First Amendment challenges if the conduct forming the basis of an exposure charge is sufficiently expressive and deemed “protected speech.”
Defenses to Indecent Exposure
There are many defenses available to contest a charge of exposure in Florida. Often, prosecutions of this charge attempt to reign in conduct that goes beyond the scope of the statute. If the exposure was unintentional, or if it occurred without the requisite “lewd” purpose, or if the exposure was not intended to be viewed by others, this will provide a complete defense to the charge.
The offense must furthermore occur within a location specified in the statute, and must go beyond mere nudity. A conviction cannot be sustained unless the prosecution is able to establish a lewd or lascivious intent.
Even in the absence of viable defenses, indecent exposure charges can often be negotiated down to less serious charges, thus sparing the accused the harsh long-term effects of a conviction.
Case Example- Exposure
State vs. J.M. (Seventh Judicial Circuit, St. Lucie County, Florida (2013)– Our client was charged with Exposure of Sexual Organs after allegedly engaging in nude sunbathing at a public beach. Although he attempted to isolate himself in an area without other people present, he was later discovered by Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) officers conducting a patrol in the area.
Upon being retained in the case, our firm filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that, although our client was fully nude, there was no evidence of any lewd act or intent, as required under applicable case law.
On the date of the hearing, the Office of the State Attorney made an offer of ‘Deferred Prosecution,’ wherein the charges would be dismissed in exchange for our client paying $50 to the State of Florida and $50 to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Outcome: Case Dismissed (Nolle Prosequi)
Contact an Attorney
If you have been accused of indecent exposure or exposure of sexual organs, you may have defenses available to contest the charge or to minimize potential penalties.
contact attorney Steven Sessa today for a free and confidential consultation. Attorney Steven Sessa handles such cases throughout the State of Florida.