Definition of Exposure
Exposure of sexual organs is defined as the as the exposure of a person’s genitalia to another person with lewd intent.
Section 800.03, Florida Statutes, provides as follows:
“It is unlawful to expose or exhibit one’s sexual organs in public or on the private premises of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private premises, in a vulgar or indecent manner, or to be naked in public except in any place provided or set apart for that purpose.”
Proof at Trial
To prove the crime of Exposure of Sexual Organs at trial, the prosecution must establish the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant exposed or exhibited his/her sexual organs or was naked;
- The defendant did so in a public place, on the private premises of another, or so near the private premises of another as to be seen from those private premises;
- The defendant intended the exposure or exhibition of his or her sexual organs or nakedness to be in a vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious manner;
- The exposure or exhibition or nakedness was in a vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious manner.
‘Vulgar’ or ‘Lewd’ Manner
As used in the statute, the terms “vulgar,” “indecent,” “lewd,” and “lascivious” mean the same thing. They mean an unlawful indulgence in lust or a wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious, or sensual intent on part of the person committing the act. Chesebrough v. State, 255 So. 2d 675, at 677, 677-78 (Fla. 1971); Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim) 11.9
Public Places vs. Private
A “public place” is defined as any place intended or designed to be frequented resorted to by the general public. For exposure offenses occurring in a public space, there is no requirement that any person be offended by such act. State v. Kees, 919 So. 2d 504, 507-08 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).
For incidents occurring on or near private property belonging to another person, a conviction requires a showing that someone was offended. Id. at 506 (citing Schmitt v. State, 590 So. 2d 404, 410 (Fla. 1991)).
Penalties for Indecent Exposure
In Florida, Exposure of Sexual Organs is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000 fine.
In addition to potential jail penalties, a conviction for Indecent Exposure in Florida will subject the accused to a permanent stigma of having engaged in lewd behavior, and interfere with employment prospects, professional licensing, college applications, and other aspects of daily life.
Mere Nudity Insufficient
Proof of mere nudity or visibility of a person’s genitals is insufficient to sustain a conviction for Exposure of Sexual Organs. Hoffman v. Carson, 250 So. 2d 891, 893 (Fla. 1971).
In order for nudity to constitute a crime, the exposure must be ‘lewd’ or ‘lascivious’ in nature. Duvallon v. State, 404 So. 2d 196, 197 (Fla. 1st DCA 1981) (overturning conviction of a female protester who wore only a cardboard sign, which allowed exposure of her buttocks and the sides of her breasts).
Lewd or Lascivious means that there must be some type of sexually-oriented intent that is lustful and/or indulgent. Chesebrough, 255 So. 2d at 677-78.
Thus, appearing nude at the beach, sleeping nude on a dock, or urinating in public are insufficient, by themselves, to sustain a conviction. U.S. v. A Naked Person Issued Notice of Violation No. P419490, 841 F. Supp. 1153 (M.D. Fla. 1993)(nude sunbathing); Goodmakers v. State, 450 So. 2d 888 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984)(nudity while asleep and motionless on a dock); Payne v. State, 463 So. 2d 271 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984) (public urination).
The act of breastfeeding a baby is also insufficient to sustain a conviction for indecent exposure. Under Section 383.015, Florida Statutes, breastfeeding is a protected act.
Thus, a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.
Constitutionality of Exposure Statute
Florida’s indecent exposure law has so far survived constitutional challenges brought on First Amendment (free speech) grounds and vagueness grounds. Hoffman v. Carson, 250 So. 2d 891, 894 (Fla. 1971).
This, however, is not to say the law will survive all First Amendment challenges if the conduct forming the basis of an exposure charge is sufficiently expressive or artistic so as to fall within the realm of constitutionally protected speech. Id. at 894.
Defenses to Indecent Exposure
There are many defenses available to contest a charge of exposure in Florida. Some of the more common defenses include the following:
- Exposure was not intentional;
- Exposure was for a non-lewd purpose;
- Defendant was not aware of the presence of other persons, or his or her visibility to others;
- The alleged act occurred in the course of breastfeeding;
- Evidence limited to mere nudity.
Case Example- Exposure
State vs. J.M. (Seventh Judicial Circuit, St. Johns County, Florida (2013)- Our client was charged with Exposure of Sexual Organs after allegedly engaging in nude sunbathing at a public beach. Although he attempted to isolate himself in an area without other people present, he was later discovered by Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) officers conducting a patrol in the area.
Upon being retained in the case, our firm filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that, although our client was fully nude, there was no evidence of any lewd act or intent, as required under applicable case law.
- Outcome: Case Dismissed
Contact an Attorney
If you have been accused of indecent exposure or exposure of sexual organs, contact Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation. Our attorneys handle exposure cases in Jacksonville, Orlando, and throughout the State of Florida.