Indecent Exposure (California Penal Code section 314) is arguably among the most relatively benign sex crimes you can be charged with, and, as such, it is typically charged as a misdemeanor. Notwithstanding, such a conviction can nevertheless have serious, long-term adverse consequences, including sex registration (see below). This is particularly true if the purported victim was a minor, or if you’ve previously been convicted of the same or a similar crime.
The offense itself is self-explanatory, but for the record, it involves you intentionally exposing your genitalia (or, as in the case of Brad Pitt, your buttocks – again, see below) to at least one other person. The gravity of the crime itself can range from something as innocuous as a fraternity prank where you (and your fellow pledges) “moon” a rival frat house during Hell Week, all the way up to you masturbating in front of a group of school children.
FYI, no one needs to actually see you expose yourself – all that’s necessary to secure your conviction is that you intended for at least one other non-consenting person to see you when you did so.
The state Supreme Court now requires that non-violent sex offenders be eligible for early parole. Specifically, just before New Year’s Eve 2020, our state’s highest court unanimously voted to require that all non-violent prisoners, including certain types of sex offenders, be considered for early parole in the absence of extenuating circumstances.
The Court’s decision marked an end to a four-year ordeal following Californians overwhelmingly approving a ballot measure in 2016 that allowed for such early parole eligibility. Specifically, Californians approved of Proposition 57 by a two-third’s vote. See: ballotpedia.org..
During those four years, numerous imprisoned non-violent sex-offender sued the California Dept. of Corrections based on the fact that the DOC had unilaterally excluded all such inmates from early parole eligibility despite the fact that Prop. 57’s language did not allow for such a wholesale exclusion.
As a result, those prisoners’ lawsuits wound their way up to the various Courts of Appeal in California, which all unanimously ruled that such a blanket exclusion in the absence of statutory language to the contrary was patently unconstitutional. No surprise, then, that the California Supreme Court agreed with those appellate courts’ rulings.
As a result, prisoners convicted of non-violent sex offenses such as Indecent Exposure can now petition the parole board for possible early release.
As stated above, Indecent Exposure (Penal Code section 314) is typically – though certainly not always – charged as a misdemeanor. This means this offense is classified as a “Wobbler” (California Penal Code section 17(b)).
In other words, if your Indecent Exposure case is referred to the District Attorney’s Office (which can prosecute misdemeanors and felonies), instead of the City Attorney’s Office (which prosecutes only misdemeanors), then the assigned Deputy DA can charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specifics of the alleged incident.
Accordingly, a felony charge will usually result if you’ve previously been convicted of Indecent Exposure or if you (allegedly) exposed yourself after entering a “dwelling” without consent.
Illegally Entering a Residence
Specifically, if you indecently exposed yourself after illegally entering a residence, an inhabited portion of any type of building (such as a mixed-use retail/residential property), or a mobile home, then you will be charged with a felony pursuant to Penal Code section 314.
The actual structure must be one defined as such under California Vehicle Code section 635.
Also, the entry of the residence must constitute a criminal offense; thus, you would also have to be charged with a separate Penal Code violation, such as:
First-Degree Residential Burglary (California Penal Code section 460(a)); or
First-Degree Home-Invasion Robbery (California Penal Code section 459).
Previous Conviction for Indecent Exposure or Lewd Acts with a Minor
Alternatively, if this is at least your second Indecent Exposure conviction, you will be charged with a felony. So, too, if you were previously convicted of Lewd Acts with a Minor Child Under 14 (California Penal Code section 288).
Under any of the preceding felony scenarios, the charge will be known as “Aggravated Indecent Exposure”.
The more innocuous/relatively benign the alleged sex crime, the better chance you have of favorably disposing it at the earliest stages – i.e., either before the investigating detective refers your Indecent Exposure case to the City Attorney’s Office or District Attorney’s Office for prosecution; or even after the assigned prosecutor has filed charges against you.
More specifically, if your lawyer is able to jump on the case quickly enough (hopefully in conjunction with an experienced, competent private investigator), you should be able to compile and present enough exculpatory evidence to, again, convince either the detective or the prosecutor to forestall a full-blown criminal prosecution.
Similarly, if you’re being accused of more serious crimes, such as masturbating in front of a group of children on a playground, then hopefully your attorney can use that same exculpatory-evidence package to convince the Deputy DA (particularly in a felony case) to allow you to plead down to a misdemeanor Indecent Exposure charge in lieu thereof.
And if your attorney is truly talented, he or she should be able to work out a deal where you get zero jail time and perhaps even no sex-offender registration requirement.
If you’ve recently learned that you’re the subject of an Indecent Exposure (or related criminal matter) investigation, you should call us ASAP to find out about your options. But please keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more the authorities will have a vested interest in prosecuting you to the fullest extent possible.
California Penal Code section 314
This is California’s codified statute that criminalizes this crime. Specifically, you can be prosecuted for Indecent Exposure if:
a. You exposed your genitalia to someone who was offended as a result thereof;
b. You exposed some other part of your body that caused the same result;
c. You counseled, hired, or otherwise convinced someone to do the same activity described in (a) or (b).
In addition, if you are convicted of Indecent Exposure two or more times, then each conviction after the first will be prosecuted as Aggravated Indecent Exposure (see below).
Alternatively, you can be prosecuted for Aggravated Indecent Exposure if you (allegedly) exposed yourself after “unlawfully” entering a residence (including a mobile home). Please note that you can be convicted of such even if no one was actually home at the time you illegally entered and exposed yourself.
Specifically, this means you did so without lawful consent; for example, by committing First-Degree Residential Burglary (Penal Code section 460(a)).
If you are convicted of misdemeanor Indecent Exposure, then you will “only” face a maximum jail term of six months. Since Penal Code section 314 does not codify a specific jail term in the event of conviction, then by default, California Penal Code section 19 applies, which, in turn, provides for a maximum six-month term.
However, even if you’re “only” convicted of misdemeanor Indecent Exposure, you will nevertheless be subjected to a likely ten-year long sex-offender registration requirement (see below).
If you’re convicted of felony Indecent Exposure, however, you could be sentenced to as much as one year in prison (in addition to a decade-long registration period).
As a result, absent extenuating circumstances, we would recommend pushing the case all the way through jury trial unless the prosecutor is willing to offer a lesser plea that does not involve registration and which can ultimately be expunged from your record.
In other words, there is no reason why a mere misdemeanor conviction should effectively destroy your life, including by subjecting you to public humiliation, shame and loss of employment/professional opportunities, for the next decade.
California Penal Code section 314
does not specify the potential prison term you’d be sentenced to if convicted of (or if you pled guilty or no contest to) a felony charge of Indecent Exposure. As a result – and as with many felony statutes which fail to specify the same – your prison term (assuming your judge actually requires one) will be determined by California Penal Code section 18, which specifies a low, mid, and high prison terms of sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months, respectively.
A felony conviction for Aggravated Indecent Exposure (see above) is considered to be a Tier-One registerable offense, pursuant to California’s Sex Offender Registration law as codified at California Penal Code section 290.
A misdemeanor conviction for Indecent Exposure may also entail registration. In either case, as a Tier-One offense, you’ll have to register for ten years. Failing to do so can result in a felony charge of Failing to Register as a Sex Offender under California Penal Code section 290.018.
As a result, you’ll appear on the state’s so-called “Megan’s Law” website, which means literally anyone in the world can instantly find about your conviction and possibly your current residential address. As harsh as this sounds, please note that prior to the enactment of California Senate Bill SB-384 on Jan. 1, 2021, all sex-crime convictions entailed lifetime registration.
According to the Judicial Council of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”), the following defenses apply to an Indecent Exposure charge:
See CALCRIM number 1160 (“Indecent Exposure — Pen. Code § 314”).
Valencia man gets one year in jail for exposing himself in front of eight local residents
During a three-month period in 2016 (March-May), Santa Clarita resident John Williams (forty-eight) allegedly exposed himself on at least six occasions in front of at least 8 victims in Valencia, and allegedly masturbated in front of several of them.
He was eventually arrested by LA Co. sheriff’s deputies. On or about June 20th of that year, he pled nolo contendre to a handful of misdemeanor Indecent Exposure charges (Pen. Code section 314), and was immediately sentenced to one year in jail; 36 months of informal probation; 52 weeks of sexual compulsion therapy; lifetime registration; and a stay-away order from the victims. See: da.lacounty.gov.
Fairfield resident receives 36 months in a state penitentiary for multiple Indecent Exposure cases
In 2012, Fairfield (in Solano County between San Francisco and Sacramento) resident Enrique Cisneros (then age 20) was reportedly convicted of three misdemeanor counts of Indecent Exposure, as well as a single misdemeanor count of “Peeking While Loitering” (“Peeping Tom” law) (California Penal Code section 647(i)).
It’s unclear what his punishment entailed. In any event, in April 2017 (approximately five years after his first Indecent Exposure conviction), he allegedly masturbated in front of several girls (both under age 14) who were on their way to school. He was arrested shortly thereafter.
Three months later (July 2017), he was arrested a third time — now while out on bail — after police pulled his vehicle over for a traffic violation, ran his name through their database, and learned about his probationary status, which allowed them to search his smart phone without a warrant or even reasonable suspicion. The officer allegedly discovered videos of Cisneros masturbating in front of underage girls in public.
Consequently, Cisneros reportedly pled nolo contendre to one felony count of Indecent Exposure (California Penal Code section 314) because of the prior conviction, as well as to one misdemeanor count of Disorderly Conduct (Penal Code section 647).
As a result, in December 2017, he was sentenced to one year and four months in the Solano County jail and placed on formal probation (for an unknown term). However, because of time served while awaiting trial and with good-time credits, Cisneros was released only four weeks later in January 2018. According to authorities, he violated his probation within days thereof by apparently engaging in his favorite outdoor pastime.
On March 16, 2018, he was sentenced for all of the foregoing to a state prison term of 36 months, 52 weeks of sexual compulsion therapy, and lifetime registration.
In 1988, Pitt – whose legal name is William Bradley Pitt – was just another starving actor doing odd jobs to survive while he awaited his big break (which would come three years later with his memorable role in 1991’s Thelma & Louise).
On one particular day in Malibu, he was working on a cable TV film and for some reason thought it would be hilarious to flash his buttocks at passing motorists on PCH. One particularly irate woman pulled over at the next sheriff’s station and filed a criminal complaint against him.
Pitt was understandably embarrassed when deputies issued him a citation for misdemeanor Indecent Exposure (but didn’t arrest him since they had not personally witnessed him exposing himself).
Pitt somehow managed to scrape up enough money to hire a private lawyer, who was able to plea him out to a simple infraction for Disturbing the Peace (California Penal Code section 415), which only required him to pay a modest fine.
Actor Fred Willard
On July 18, 2012, LAPD raided an X-rated movie theater on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood and allegedly found seventy-three-year-old actor Fred Willard (best known for starring in the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap) masturbating. As a result, he was arrested for suspicion of Lewd Conduct in Public (California Penal Code section 647(a)). (He probably should have invested in a VCR?)
But Willard hired a competent private attorney who was able to get him an outpatient diversion program (for sexual compulsion), which he successfully completed two months later. His judge thereafter dismissed the charge against him. If he had gone to trial and lost, he would have faced up to 12 months in jail plus lifetime registration.
He didn’t escape entirely unscathed, however – he was fired from a TV show he was starring in at the time. Nevertheless, he did star in Anchorman 2 the following year.