What is “Indecent Exposure” and When Is It A Crime?

Indecent exposure in North Carolina is no laughing matter. In fact, it can land you in jail and even on the lifetime sex offender registry in certain cases. If you have been charged with indecent exposure, you should contact a North Carolina criminal defense attorney to review your case and develop your defense. But first, let’s discuss what indecent exposure is and what the associated penalties are.

What Is Indecent Exposure?

In North Carolina, anyone who exposes “private parts” in any “public place” in front of one or more people can be charged with indecent exposure. The definitions of private parts and public place are key to understanding the charge.

While you might have your own definition of “private parts,” the State defines this as “female or male genitalia” for purposes of the indecent exposure law. This means that neither a person’s buttocks nor a woman’s breasts are considered private parts. The law makes it very clear that a woman whose breasts are exposed while breastfeeding cannot be charged with indecent exposure.

As for a “public” place, our courts consider any place “viewable from any location open to the view of the public at large” to be a public place. This is a broad definition that can even include private property. For example, if a person exposes himself in the front yard of his private property and a pedestrian on the street sees, that person could be charged with indecent exposure. 

Examples of Indecent Exposure

A person might be charged with indecent exposure in North Carolina for any number of acts, such as:

  • An adult male who flashes his genitals in a public park in front of other park-goers;
  • A teenager who exposes his genitals to women on a street corner as a dare from his friends; or 
  • A couple engaged in a sexual act in their car in a public parking lot, in plain view of others. 

What Are the Penalties for Indecent Exposure?

Most indecent exposure cases are charged as Class 2 misdemeanors. Possible penalties include jail for up to thirty days, probation, community service, and a fine of up to $1,000.

While anyone of any age can be charged with indecent exposure, if the perpetrator is eighteen years old or older and exposes himself to someone younger than sixteen for pure sexual gratification, he will face a Class H felony. Because this crime involves a child victim, the State takes it very seriously and the punishment often includes jail time of four to eight months, community service, fines, and registration as a sexual offender for a lifetime.

Need More Guidance?

If you feel overwhelmed by your criminal charges, indecent exposure or otherwise, don’t try to manage your affairs on your own. Jeremy Cotten has served clients throughout Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham counties and is ready to meet with you to discuss your case. Give him a call or head to the main page to speak with a legal assistant 24 hours a day.

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