How Does Texas Define The Crime Of Indecent Exposure?
Has someone alleged that you committed the crime of Indecent Exposure? Has this allegation led to your arrest in Fort Worth, Texas or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas? If so, you need to hire an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth indecent exposure lawyer to protect you from jail time and a conviction. Contact The Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to discuss these charges and the legal defenses available to you.
Indecent Exposure is a serious criminal offense that must, if at all possible, be resolved without a conviction. Although Texas law classifies the crime of Indecent Exposure as a misdemeanor, a conviction could result in serious long-term consequences ranging from the inability to find employment, housing, and educational funding to potentially being required to register as a sex offender.
In addition to hiring the best indecent exposure attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, you need to also understand what Texas law defines as the crime of indecent exposure and what your rights and legal defenses are in court.
What is Indecent Exposure?
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 21.08, the State of Texas, through the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, is required to prove the following elements of the crime of Indecent Exposure beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain a conviction:
A person commits the criminal offense of Indecent Exposure if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, and he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his act.
The Texas Penal Code states that an individual acts “recklessly” if that individual is aware that their conduct can cause the result of their actions, but consciously disregards the risk the result will occur.
Legal Defenses To Indecent Exposure In Texas
When fighting an indecent exposure case in Texas, it is critical to not only work with an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney that has a proven track record of obtain results for their clients in the courts of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas, it is also critical that the client is aware of the legal defenses available to them so that they are prepared for the fight in court.
Defense #1 – Inability To Prove “Intent To Arouse Or Gratify”
The most litigated and contested issues during a trial for Indecent Exposure are whether the individual intended to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of another and whether or not the individual acted recklessly regarding whether someone would be present or offended by his actions.
For instance, one of the most common instances of an arrest for Indecent Exposure in Tarrant County is when someone urinates in public. Although urinating in public can sometimes meet the elements of Indecent Exposure, it is often difficult for the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to a Tarrant County jury because the exposure was not done to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. Even though the accused may have been reckless in exposing himself or herself to urinate, without proving the additional element of “intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of another,” the State of Texas will lose their case.
Example: A client was invited to play golf at one of the local golf courses in Fort Worth, Texas. He made it out to the seventh hole and realized he urgently needed to urinate. He could not wait until ninth hole, so he found his way over to the wooded area and exposed himself to urinate. What he did not realize is that someone in the apartment complex fifty yards away was out on their patio and saw him urinating. This alleged victim immediately called the police and said they were offended and believed this man was exposing himself to her. The police arrested him and charged him with indecent exposure.
Did this man commit the crime of indecent exposure? NO! The State of Texas will not be able to prove that he exposed himself with the intent to sexual arouse or gratify another. There is no evidence that he had an erection and there is no evidence he was aware that the alleged victim was present at the time.
He MAY have committed the lesser Class C Misdemeanor offense of Disorderly Conduct by Exposure. Under Texas Penal Code Section 42.01, the offense of Disorderly Conduct by Exposure requires the State of Texas to prove that you intentionally or knowingly exposed your anus or genitals in a public place and were reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by the act. If the Indecent Exposure charge were to be dropped to this lesser included misdemeanor of Disorderly Conduct, it would be much easier to resolve the case in a manner that would allow the arrest and charge to be permanently expunged from your criminal record.
Another problem scenario where the State of Texas may not be able to prove intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of another is when there is no evidence of erection or sexual arousal. What if the accused clearly exposed themselves but there is no evidence of an erection? The most common way to determine if a man is sexually aroused is by observing an erection. In this situation, the State of Texas would not be able to prove that the accused exposed himself with intent to sexually arouse HIMSELF. Now we must look to see if there were any actions by the accused that would independently show that he was attempting to arouse the alleged victim. Merely seeing someone expose themselves does not, by itself, establish proof of intent to sexually arouse or gratify the person who saw them. This is the type of analysis that your criminal defense attorney must do to protect you on an indecent exposure case in Texas.
Defense #2 – Inability To Prove “Recklessness”
The best indecent exposure attorneys in Texas know that the State of Texas is required to prove intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, AND the act is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by the act.
Proving only one of the elements will not be sufficient. In other words, even if someone was exposing themselves with the intent to arouse another person but their actions were not reckless, but instead negligent, there is no crime of indecent exposure under Texas criminal law.
As stated earlier, in order to prove reckless, the prosecutor will have to prove that you were aware that your conduct could cause the result of your actions but chose to consciously disregard the risk the result would occur.
For example, there have been instances where someone has exposed themself in their residence where there was an open window and the neighbor saw them. The determination of whether the actions were reckless becomes a fact-specific inquiry. Was the choice to expose themselves reckless in regard to whether someone else would be present who would be offended? If the window were pointed toward the neighbor’s house, it would meet the definition. If it were pointed out into the forest where nobody would be expected to see him, likely not.
Additionally, Texas law is clear that a mother exposing herself to breastfeed her baby is not classified as indecent exposure.
Criminal Consequences for an Indecent Exposure Conviction?
The crime of Indecent Exposure is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a term in the Tarrant County jail of up to 180 days and a fine not to exceed $2,000.
However, under Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, if you receive a second conviction for Indecent Exposure, you are required to register as a sex offender in the county where you reside for a period of ten years.
As you can see, it is critical that you hire an aggressive and experienced criminal defense lawyer that will work to ensure your Indecent Exposure charge does not result in a conviction and can be expunged from your criminal record.
How Can An Indecent Exposure Case Be Dismissed In Texas?
This is the most common question we receive from people wrongfully charged with indecent exposure in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas. Typically, there are four ways to get an indecent exposure case dismissed in Fort Worth, Texas:
- Dismissed For Lack Of Evidence – at all times, the burden of proof remains on the State of Texas to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If your experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney is able to analyze the evidence and determine one of the defenses, we mentioned above applies to your indecent exposure case, your case may be eligible for dismissal. Normally, the negotiation process for a dismissal take a long time. Most prosecutors are not interested in raising the white flag at the beginning of a case. Many times, the best criminal attorneys realize they must push the prosecutor to do the right thing by placing the criminal case on a trial docket. For a misdemeanor case, this can take six months to a year of negotiating before this happens. For a felony case, it can take up to two to three years before a case makes it on a trial docket. Once your indecent exposure case is on the trial docket, the prosecutor is forced to look critically at the case to determine if each element of the crime can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not uncommon for our criminal attorneys to create significantly better options to resolve the case once the case is on the trial docket. Whatever you do, do not let your criminal attorney try to talk you into a plea deal at your first court setting
- Conditional Dismissal – if your criminal attorney is able to establish some doubt regarding an issue on your indecent exposure case, sometimes a conditional dismissal can be negotiated. In this situation, the prosecutor is willing to dismiss your indecent exposure case in exchange for you completing certain conditions (community service, donation to a charity, completion of classes or programs, etc.). The benefit to this arrangement is that the case is dismissed, and you are still eligible for an expunction of all arrest and case records.
- Dropped to a Class C Disorderly Conduct Misdemeanor – at first glance, this appears to be a bad resolution. Why take anything on a plea deal? In this situation, if there was no intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of another, the prosecutor may be willing to drop the charge to a lesser included misdemeanor offense of Disorderly Conduct by Exposure. The benefit to this plea is that upon completion of a deferred disposition on a Class C Misdemeanor, you will be eligible to have your case and arrest permanently expunged from your criminal record.
- Not Guilty Verdict at a Jury Trial – finally, you always have a Constitutional right to a trial by jury. Under the Federal and Texas Constitutions, you have a right to force the State of Texas to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor fails to meet their burden, you will be acquitted. Upon receiving an acquittal, you are IMMEDIATELY eligible for an expunction of all records. Ultimately, our goal at The Hampton Law Firm is to secure you options that do not require you to take the risk of a jury trial but if the prosecutor persists in being unreasonable, we stand ready to defend you!
If you, a friend or a loved one has been arrested for indecent exposure in Tarrant County, Texas, call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation and an opportunity to speak to me about the facts of your case and the options you have under Texas law. Call Jeff Hampton at The Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905.
Contact the Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options.