Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

It isn’t the most serious criminal offense, but if you’re charged with indecent exposure in or near the Denver area, you must arrange as swiftly as possible to consult a Denver indecent exposure attorney for the legal help that you’ll need.

A charge of indecent exposure may apply when someone has allegedly urinated, masturbated, or “flashed” another person publicly or when someone participates in sexual activity in public.

But in Colorado, can someone be arrested for indecent exposure on his or her own property? What are your legal rights and options if you are charged with indecent exposure in this state? What steps will you need to take? When should you contact a Denver criminal defense lawyer?

If you’ll continue reading this short introduction to indecent exposure, the law in Colorado, and your legal rights, you’ll find the answers to these questions, and you’ll also learn how a Denver criminal defense attorney will help you if you’re accused of indecent exposure in Colorado.

What Constitutes Indecent Exposure?

In Colorado, someone commits indecent exposure in one of these two ways:

  1.  by knowingly exposing his or her genitals to another person in a manner that is likely to affront or alarm that other person
  2.  by knowingly exposing his or her genitals to another person with the intention of arousing or satisfying that other person’s sexual desire

The perpetrator’s intention and the setting of the incident are important. Let’s say that you are hiking in a remote area and you remove your clothes for sunbathing. If another person sees you, it may not be indecent exposure if you did not knowingly expose your genitals to that person.

Similarly, someone who removes his or her clothes at a location known to be a nude beach may not be committing indecent exposure because others at a nude beach will probably not be offended or alarmed. The indecent exposure law also does not apply to breastfeeding a child.

How is an Indecent Exposure Conviction Penalized?

Under Colorado law, indecent exposure is a Class 1 misdemeanor that may be penalized upon conviction with a fine and/or a jail sentence. However, a third indecent exposure charge after two previous convictions is a Class 6 felony punishable upon conviction with a prison sentence.

If the offender is sentenced to probation, then treatment, counseling, community service, and other terms of probation may be imposed by the court. Anyone who is convicted of indecent exposure in Colorado is also required to register – and to re-register annually – as a sex offender.

A misdemeanor conviction may not be seen by the public, but a felony indecent exposure conviction may allow employers, landlords, and neighbors to learn that someone is a registered sex offender. Failing to register as a sex offender for an indecent exposure conviction is itself a Class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado.

What Are the Defenses to an Indecent Exposure Charge?

You could be charged with indecent exposure in Colorado even for innocent behavior. Someone who is tanning or sunbathing in the nude, or even someone who is urinating, may not have intended to be seen or may not have expected to be seen by others.

If you are charged with indecent exposure in or near the Denver area, your Denver indecent exposure attorney may offer one or more of these defenses on your behalf:

  1. The exposure was not intentional; you did not intend to affront or alarm others.
  2. There was no one in the area to be affronted or alarmed.
  3. Your genitals were not actually exposed in the incident.
  4. Someone else committed the indecent exposure, and you have been misidentified.
  5. No indecent exposure happened, and the allegation has been fabricated.

In some indecent exposure cases, intoxication or mental illness may be offered as a defense or as a mitigating circumstance.

What About Your Own Backyard?

While almost any incident of indecent exposure in a public setting constitutes a criminal offense in Colorado, if the incident happens in your own backyard, it becomes more complicated legally, and such incidents are handled in Colorado on a case-by-case basis.

An indecent exposure charge depends on your intention as well as your location. In general, even in your home or on your own property, you are obligated to refrain from nudity or sexual activity that may be viewed from another home, from a street, or from anywhere beyond your property.

Indecent exposure, even on your own property, is against the law in Colorado if you intend to be viewed by, to offend, to alarm, or to shock strangers or neighbors. If anyone easily can see you indecently exposed, you can be arrested and charged, even in your own backyard.

What is “Public Indecency” in Colorado?

In Colorado, public indecency is a lesser charge than indecent exposure. Public indecency involves exposing intimate parts of the body other than the genitals, and it also includes engaging in sex in a public setting.

Public indecency is a petty offense in Colorado, even though the penalties for a conviction may include time in jail and/or a costly fine. However, a conviction for public indecency doesn’t require sex offender registration.

Charged With Indecent Exposure? What Steps Should You Take?

In order to convict you of an indecent exposure charge, a Colorado prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were acting with criminal intent, but a Denver criminal defense lawyer will explain what actually happened and that your intentions were not criminal.

If you’re charged with indecent exposure, public indecency, or any other offense in the Denver area, exercise your right to remain silent. Do not speak to the police or answer any of their questions until you can meet with a Colorado criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Simply say, “I would prefer not to answer questions until my lawyer can be present,” and then say no more. Make the call and put a defense attorney on the case as soon as possible after you’ve been charged with indecent exposure or with any other crime in or near the Denver area.

A good defense lawyer will protect your rights, discuss how the law applies to your case, explain your options, and develop an effective defense strategy on your behalf. Your lawyer will fight aggressively for your acquittal and will bring your case to its best possible conclusion.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.