New York Indecent Exposure Lawyer
New York’s lewdness and public exposure prohibitions are codified in Penal Law sections 245.00 through 245.03. Lewdness and public exposure may not be the most serious of crimes under New York law, but they can be embarrassing nonetheless. A conviction for lewdness or public exposure can be a blemish on an otherwise clean record with the potential to affect your life and career. Moreover, depending on the circumstances, a lewdness charge can land you in jail or subject you to a hefty fine. A dedicated New York indecent exposure attorney at Dupée & Monroe can help you defend against a charge of lewdness or exposure and protect your record and your reputation.
Exposure of a Person: NY Penal Law §§ 245.01 and 245.02
N.Y. Penal Law section 245.01, Exposure of a Person, makes it a violation for someone to appear in a public place with their “private or intimate parts . . . unclothed or exposed.” “Promoting” the exposure of another person by offering the public setting for the exposure is similarly punishable as a violation per section 245.02.
New York’s exposure law specifically defines exposure for women as including “that portion of the breast which is below the top of the areola,” but excludes breastfeeding as well as performance art such as plays or other exhibitions. Local city or county governments are permitted to add additional restrictions on the time and place for exposure, regardless of whether the activity was a form of entertainment.
Public Lewdness: NY Penal Law §§ 245.00 and 245.03
Public lewdness is slightly more complicated than simple exposure. Public lewdness occurs when a person intentionally exposes their private parts in a “lewd manner” or commits any other “lewd act” in a public place. Notably, you can be charged with lewd conduct even if the conduct occurred at your home or on some other private premises as long as the lewd act was observable from a public place or from other private residences.
Lewd act is a term that is meant to apply to any activity considered “indecent” when performed in public. Lewd acts are not specifically defined in New York statutes, but there have been many court decisions surrounding the definition. For example, exposing a penis may be simple exposure, while proceeding to masturbate would be considered a lewd act. Lewd act, much like obscenity, falls under the “you know it when you see it” area of the law.
Public Lewdness in the First Degree, codified at section 245.03, is triggered where:
- A defendant aged 19 years or older intentionally exposes their private parts with the intent to be seen by a person aged 16 or under, for the purposes of “alarming or seriously annoying” the younger victim; OR
- A defendant already has a prior conviction under section 245.00.
Punishment for Lewdness and Exposure
The base crime of public lewdness is a class B misdemeanor. Lewdness is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and probation. Public lewdness in the first degree is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Exposure is a violation, with a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail in addition to fines and community service.
Defending against charges of lewdness or exposure
Your best defense to a charge of lewdness or exposure is to have a good reason for the exposed body part that in some way renders it neutral or the result of a misunderstanding. If the exposure was a part of a play, or incidental to breastfeeding, then it was not a crime. If the exposure was incidental to a medical condition, such as incontinence or the inability to control urination, then you may have a defense.
Additionally, in order to be convicted of public lewdness, the defendant must have intentionally exposed his or herself in public. If the defendant was accidentally exposed, such as by a clothing tear or the actions of another person, then there is no intent and no conviction. Discuss the circumstances with your criminal defense attorney to determine your best route for defending against the charges.
Help is Available for Lewdness and Exposure Charges from Our Hudson Valley Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you have been arrested and charged with lewdness or exposure under New York state law, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C., in Goshen. We represent clients charged with lewdness, exposure, and other serious offenses in Orange County and throughout the Hudson Valley.