Ventura Criminal Defense Attorney-

Indecent Exposure – Sanford Horowitz Criminal Defense, P.C.

Pier jutting out from the beach.
Under California Penal Code Section 314, it is illegal to willfully and lewdly expose your private parts in a public place or any place where individuals would be offended or annoyed by your actions. You can even be convicted for indecent exposure inside your own home, if you intentionally exposed your private parts in the presence of another who might be offended or annoyed.

A former Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Offices in Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties, Sanford Horowitz and his legal team will offer you a free consultation, investigate the evidence against you, and recommend practical steps to achieve the best possible results in your case.

elements of the crime

In order to secure a conviction in Ventura for indecent exposure, the prosecutor must produce sufficient proof to a judge or jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of specific components of the offense. These components include the following:

Exposure of private body parts

In general, indecent exposure (sometimes referred to as public indecency) is the deliberate exhibition of a person’s genitals, buttocks and/or female nipples in a public location. Breastfeeding mothers are exempt from prosecution for exposing their breasts in public in most states.

exposure that is willful

You willfully exposed your genitals if you acted in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by your actions. You acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to your genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying yourself or another person, or sexually offending another person.

If you exposed your naked body or genitals believing you would be seen, even if no one actually saw the exposure, you have committed indecent exposure.

The law disregards what any person who witnesses your allegedly indecent act actually thinks about your act. The law assumes that any witness to your act will be offended or annoyed by your conduct.

exposure in a public place

Retail establishments and outdoor areas, whether publicly or privately owned, are examples of public places. A room inside a home, not visible to anyone outside the home, is an example of a place that is not a considered to be a public place.

However, it is possible to commit indecent exposure in the comfort your own home. For example, if Jim finds his neighbor Kim to be attractive, and seeks arousal through showing her his genitals, he is intending to commit indecent exposure.

If Kim sees Jim pacing back and forth naked in front of his window adjacent from her window but only sees enough to know he is trying to expose himself to her, he is still guilty of indecent exposure.

Indecent Exposure Penalties

Indecent exposure is generally charged as a misdemeanor offense in California. The maximum allowable criminal penalty for a misdemeanor indecent exposure conviction includes any of the following:

  • Six months in Ventura County jail,
  • $1,000 in criminal fines, and
  • Registration as a sex offender in the state of California.

There are certain situations when acts of indecent exposure can be charged as a felony. You will face felony charges for aggravated indecent exposure if you have prior convictions for indecent exposures and/or break into another person’s home to expose yourself. A conviction for felony indecent exposure is punishable by any of the following:

  • Up to 3 years in a California state prison,
  • $10,000 in criminal fines, and
  • Registration as a sex offender in the state of California.

If convicted for indecent exposure in Ventura, the court will require you to register as a sex offender and you will be required to annually update yourself on the sex offender registry with the state for a minimum of ten years. Your status as a sex offender will be made public since indecent exposure is considered to be a sex crime.

Most professional organizations requiring licenses in California will consider discipline for anyone convicted of indecent exposure who also holds a professional license in the state. This doesn’t, however, mean that you have to give up your license. Misdemeanor convictions are an exception to the general disciplinary approach, which would otherwise involve the possibility of losing your professional license.


Just because you have been arrested for indecent exposure doesn’t mean that you will be convicted of the crime. Our attorneys will aggressively pursue any defense that can help to explain, excuse, or justify your actions. Successful defenses will make it hard for the state to build a strong case against you. This can help to get the charges in your case reduced or thrown out. Defenses to indecent exposure may include:

Lack of intent

If you did not intend to draw the public’s attention to the private parts of your body, you are not guilty. The prosecution must show that you exposed your genitals for the purpose of sexual arousal or to offend another person. If you did not intend to expose yourself for either of these purposes, then you are not in the wrong.

For example, imagine that Paul goes to an isolated beach where he hopes to sunbathe nude, but other people arrive at the beach, resulting in an arrest.

He is not guilty of indecent exposure because he did not intend to direct attention to his genitals.

mistaken identity

Cases of indecent exposure usually occur when the victim does not have a clear image to correctly identify the perpetrator who exposed themselves.

Perhaps the alleged offense took place in a dark environment. Perhaps the perpetrator’s face was partially hidden. Perhaps the victim’s view of the perpetrator resembled you from the back. Perhaps you share the same name as the suspected “flasher”. There are a number of reasons why you could have been mistakenly identified as an “indecent exposure” perpetrator, and it’s your California criminal defense attorney’s job to convince the court of that very fact.


To commit the California crime of indecent exposure, you need to expose yourself in the presence of another person who might be offended or annoyed by the exposure. There are a number of ways to look for flaws in the prosecutor’s case.

For example, even if you were in a “public” area, it could have been a secluded spot, perhaps behind some bushes at a park, where you didn’t believe others would see you. If this is true, then the action probably doesn’t meet the definition of indecent exposure.

But with respect to people who are annoyed or offended, California indecent exposure laws don’t take into account the audience.

For example, if you expose yourself to a prison guard who is trained in sexual misbehavior and has seen incidents like this before, you are still committing indecent exposure.

Just because the guard is less likely to be shocked by your actions, it does not mean they will not be annoyed by it.

you did not expose your genitals

In order to be convicted of indecent exposure, you must have exposed your genitals or private parts. If the exposed area was a body part above the waist, your underwear, or revealing clothing, this defense applies because your actual genitals were not exposed to public view.

If you are facing a charge of felony indecent exposure, Santa Barbara County defense attorney Sanford Horowitz Criminal Defense, P.C. knows the law and the best strategies for your defense. We have extensive experience representing clients throughout the Santa Maria area and want to help you understand the charges you are facing as well as what your rights are under the law. If you’d like to schedule a consultation about your case, call 805-452-7214 or fill out this contact form.




Person being arrested with police car in the background.


Expungement is available to defendants convicted of either California misdemeanors or felonies provided that:

  • Probation for the offense has been completed.
  • No time was served in state prison for the offense.
  • Time was served in state prison but was served in county jail if the crime been committed after implementation of “Realignment” under Proposition 47.


In California a woman is legally allowed to breastfeed in any public or private location where she is legally allowed to be.  This includes restaurants, airplanes, grocery stores, or any other public place where you and your child are allowed.


A person is guilty of indecent exposure in the second degree when he intentionally exposes his genitals under circumstances in which he knows or should know that his conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm to a person eighteen (18) years of age or older. Indecent exposure in the second degree is a Class B misdemeanor.


Don’t wait to contact Sanford Horowitz to ensure that your legal rights are protected.