Law enforcement officers arrest countless people for indecent exposure every year. Many of these people are under the influence of alcohol at the time of their arrest, completely unaware that their seemingly harmless actions are illegal. Indecent exposure is not only illegal, but it also carries a number of serious penalties. If you have been charged with this crime, the top criminal lawyers in Denver can help you fight for your freedom.

But first, it’s important to understand exactly what crime you are accused of committing and the penalties you could face if you are convicted.

How is Indecent Exposure Defined By Colorado Law?

A person can commit indecent exposure in one of two ways:

  1. Exposing his or her genitals to another person, or
  2. Masturbating in public

The law states that these acts are considered indecent exposure when they are committed in a manner that offends or alarms the other person. You do not need to be face-to-face with the other person in order to be charged with this crime. If a member of the public can see you, you could be charged with indecent exposure.

Indecent Exposure vs. Public Indecency in Colorado

The terms indecent exposure and public indecency are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two separate crimes in the state of Colorado. Public indecency is considered a minor offense that is not as serious as indecent exposure.

Public decency is the crime of engaging in one of these acts in public:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Exposing an intimate body part (excluding genitals)
  • Fondling or caressing another person
  • Exposing the genitals

It’s important to note that both public indecency and indecent exposure involve the act of exposing your genitals to the public. But, there is a major difference between these two crimes. Exposing your genitals is considered indecent exposure when it is done with the intent to satisfy someone’s sexual desire. If you did not have this intent, it is considered public indecency instead.

For example, a drunk man who exposes his genitals while urinating outside a bar would be charged with public indecency, not indecent exposure. This is because he did not expose his genitals to satisfy a sexual desire, but rather to urinate.

Breastfeeding technically meets the legal definition of public indecency since it involves the exposure of an intimate body part. However, state law gives mothers the right to breastfeed in any place regardless of whether it is public or private. This law protects nursing mothers from facing criminal charges for their decision to breastfeed in public.

Is Indecent Exposure A Felony or Misdemeanor in Colorado?

Most acts of indecent exposure are class 1 misdemeanors. However, repeat offenders can face class 6 felony charges instead.

Indecent exposure is charged as a class 6 felony if the defendant has been convicted of this crime or one that is similar in nature at least two times in the past. It doesn’t matter where the prior convictions occurred—in Colorado or elsewhere—they will still count.

What Are the Penalties For Indecent Exposure in Colorado?

Both misdemeanor and felony indecent exposure charges carry serious penalties. If you are convicted of misdemeanor indecent exposure, you can face between 6-18 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Felony indecent exposure charges can lead to 12-18 months in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. The exact penalties imposed on a defendant will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal background.

Jail time and fines are not the only penalties you could face for an indecent exposure conviction. Indecent exposure offenders are required to register as sex offenders, which means the public could have access to your personal information and the details of your crime. There’s no avoiding this penalty, either. If you are required to register as a sex offender and fail to do so, you may face additional criminal charges.

Being labeled as a sex offender can have a negative impact on your personal and professional life. The sex offender label could ruin your reputation, too. It can even affect where you are allowed to live. For these reasons, mandatory registration as a sex offender is one of the most serious penalties of committing this crime.

How Can A Criminal Defense Attorney Help You Fight Indecent Exposure Charges?

Many people are wrongly accused of indecent exposure. For example, someone who is sunbathing naked or streaking as part of a harmless prank could face indecent exposure charges. But, the prosecution cannot convict you unless they are able to prove that you acted with sexual intent.  

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you prove that your actions were not sexual in nature. You may not have been aware of the other person’s presence or may not have intentionally exposed your genitals. For instance, you may not have realized that your genitals were exposed to the public as a result of a wardrobe malfunction. You shouldn’t face time behind bars for this honest mistake. An attorney will get to the bottom of what really happened and use this evidence to poke holes in the prosecution’s story.

A plea bargain may be the best possible outcome for some defendants facing indecent exposure charges. If this is the case, an attorney may negotiate to have the indecent exposure charges reduced to a lesser crime, such as public indecency. This will help you avoid the most serious legal penalties of an indecent exposure conviction, including the mandatory requirement to register as a sex offender.

If you are facing indecent exposure charges, it’s important to understand that your future is at stake. Indecent exposure may seem like a harmless crime, but it can lead to consequences that can affect you for the rest of your life. You need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work tirelessly to help you avoid the consequences of a conviction. Your freedom, family, reputation, and career depend on it.

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.