Indecent Exposure: Laws & Definition

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  • 0:02 Laws
  • 0:45 Example of Indecent Exposure
  • 2:08 Definition
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Richard Robertson

Richard has taught college Criminal Justice subjects and has a master's degree in criminal justice.

In this lesson, we will learn what constitutes the crime of indecent exposure. We will take a look at the laws that govern this crime and examine the legal definition of indecent exposure. Upon completion of this lesson, you will have a thorough understanding of the crime of indecent exposure.


Basically the crime of indecent exposure is when a person deliberately exposes their genitalia (private parts) in a public place, usually for the purpose of shocking the viewers. In some states, the terminology 'private parts' also includes the buttocks and female breasts. Under common law, this act was considered a misdemeanor and today, the offense can still be found in the statues of all 50 states as a misdemeanor. The basic elements of the crime that a prosecutor must prove is that the individual actually exposed their private parts, the act was willful, the act occurred in a public place, and that the act occurred in the presence of another person or persons.

Example of Indecent Exposure

A specific example of a state law is Georgia's 'Public Indecency' code, which states that 'a person commits the offense of public indecency when he or she performs any of the following acts in a public place:

  1. An act of sexual intercourse
  2. A lewd exposure of the sexual organs
  3. A lewd appearance in a state of partial or complete nudity
  4. A lewd caress or indecent fondling of the body of another person

Each state will have their own wording that describes the offense of indecent exposure, but all share the same elements needed for a person to be accused of the crime: exposure, willfulness, and location in a public place.

An interesting example of a person being arrested for indecent exposure occurred in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2009. A woman was walking her seven-year-old son to school one morning and, while passing a house, she reported to the police that she could see a naked man standing at his window. The police then arrested the gentleman for indecent exposure. His explanation was that he was running through his house naked but did not intentionally expose himself to the public. When this case went to trial he was found not guilty because the prosecutor could not prove he was deliberately exposing himself. As you can see, all the elements of the crime must be present in order to be convicted.


If an individual is charged with the crime of indecent exposure, the state must prove in court that the essential elements of the crime were present when the offense was committed in order to obtain a conviction. Although the statutes' wording may vary between the states, the essential elements usually include the following:

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