Texas employs stringent laws to protect the public from exposure to unwanted sexual behaviors. It especially prohibits people from displaying themselves just to rile or offend others.
However, you may be unclear about how you can behave with your romantic partner in public or where you can engage in tasks like changing your clothing, particularly if you want to avoid breaking the laws in Texas. You can avoid being charged with indecent exposure in Texas by learning what this offense entails and what kinds of punishments it can merit.
What is Indecent Exposure in Texas?
Texas defines indecent exposure as exposing any part of your genitals or anus with the intent of sexually arousing, sexually gratifying, offending or alarming another person or people. It can include exposing yourself in a public setting, such as a beach or grocery store. Even if you try to be discreet about showing yourself to someone else, such as your boyfriend or girlfriend, but are seen by others, you can be charged with indecent exposure in Texas.
As a reference, a public place can be defined as any place where people in public or a group of people, such as students in a school hallway, can see you and the exposure of your genitals or anus. It can include locations like:
- Shopping malls
- Apartment complex courtyards
- Government buildings
- Public sidewalks
Texas also includes three elements in its definition of indecent exposure. These elements include:
- The intent to arouse or sexually gratify another person
- Exposure of the anus or genitals
- Recklessness about exposing oneself in front of or in the presence of someone else who could become offended or alarmed from the exposure
You can also be charged with indecent exposure if you expose yourself to a minor under the age of 18, as a minor cannot legally consent to sexual behaviors or activity in Texas. However, if you and the other party to which you exposed yourself mutually agreed to the exposure, you may not be charged with this offense.
How is Indecent Exposure Charged in Texas?
Indecent exposure in Texas is regarded as a serious offense. However, it may only be charged as a Class B misdemeanor if it meets certain criteria under the state’s laws.
For example, if you have never before been charged with or convicted of this crime in Texas, you may be charged with a misdemeanor and receive a lighter sentence. The maximum sentence for a Class B misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure in Texas can merit punishments of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of no more than $2000. You may receive an additional sentence of probation.
However, if you are a repeat indecent exposure offender or you expose yourself to someone younger than the age of 16, you could be charged with a third degree felony in Texas. This felony conviction can result in you serving up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
You should also note that indecent exposure is entirely different than public lewdness in Texas. Texas defines public lewdness as any sexual contact or intercourse that takes place in public that alarms or offends someone else. It can include:
- Sexual conduct
- Sexual intercourse
- Deviate sexual intercourse, which involves contact between a person’s mouth and someone else’s mouth or anus
- Any sexual conduct that involves contact between a person’s mouth and the anus or genitals of an animal
Public lewdness can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime. It can also result be reflected on your criminal record and negatively impact your ability to acquire employment, housing and admittance to college.
Possible Defenses for Indecent Exposure
Despite being a serious crime, indecent exposure does have a few possible defenses under Texas law. The foremost defense can involve proving that you never had any intention of sexually arousing or gratifying anyone with your exposure. You also may not have intended to alarm or offend anyone by exposing yourself to them.
If you can prove that you intended to do neither, you could take away the primary component behind your indecent exposure charge. You may have the charge against you dropped or be found innocent in court.
Another defense that you could use is arguing that you never intended for anyone to see you when you exposed yourself. You may have thought that only your romantic partner could see what you were doing. You also may have thought that no one could see you when you were changing or adjusting your clothing, for example.
You likewise might argue that you suffered from a mental defect that led you to expose yourself indecently. For example, you might have been in the midst of a panic attack and tried to remove your clothing to cool off or feel less constricted.
Moreover, you could prove that you were intoxicated at the time of your offense. While intoxication can be a valid defense against indecent exposure in Texas, it typically will not vacate any punishment for the offense. However, it might lower the severity or extent of the penalties that you receive.
Finally, children often escape being charged with indecent exposure. The state law in Texas stipulates that children, especially those under 16, lack the ability to consent to sexual behaviors like indecent exposure. They also may not understand that they are exciting, arousing, alarming or offending people with their actions.
Why Hire an Attorney?
When you are charged with indecent exposure in Texas, you have the right to defend yourself. Your defense can start with retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.
Your attorney can offer a number of critical services, including making sure that the police had enough proof to charge you with this crime. If there is not enough evidence, such as witnesses to or video proof of your indecent exposure, they may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped.
Your criminal defense lawyer can also argue for why you do not deserve the full punishment allowed under the state’s laws. They can determine if you were mentally sound at the time of the offense. Your attorney can also discover if anyone really saw what you were doing or if you only exposed yourself to another adult with their consent.
Finally, your lawyer can make sure that you are not charged with public lewdness based on the evidence in your case. They can verify that you exposed yourself but did not engage in any kind of sexual conduct that could result in a public lewdness charge and harsher penalties.
Indecent exposure in Texas is a serious offense. You could serve time in jail or pay an expensive fine if you are found guilty of it. You can avoid going to jail or paying fines that you cannot afford by hiring an experienced lawyer like Brett A. Podolsky to defend you if you are charged with this crime.