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What is the Difference between Lewdness and Indecent Exposure?

Texas strives to protect public morality by criminalizing sexual exhibitionism. Although consenting adults can do almost anything they want in the privacy of their bedroom, the law takes a dim view of activity that might be seen unwillingly by non-participants. Indeed, it’s possible to face criminal charges if you recklessly perform sexual acts in front of people without intending to.

Two misdemeanor sex crimes which are not well understood are indecent exposure and public lewdness. Although they might sound the same, there are key differences. Our Galveston criminal defense attorney provides an overview of them below.

Indecent Exposure Examples

You can face criminal charges if you expose any part of your genitals or your anus with the intent to arouse anyone’s sexual desire (including your own) and you are reckless about whether someone will be offended.

For example, you could face charges for:

  • Flashing someone in public
  • Undressing in front of the window while people wait for a bus across the street
  • Sunbathing while nude

Context matters. For example, it’s not unusual to undress in a locker room, which means you are probably exposing yourself. However, people undress for reasons other than to gratify their sexual desires or the desires of other people. Instead, they undress to take a shower after working out and then get back into their work clothes. The fact that someone saw your genitals would not, in that context, be enough to warrant a criminal charge.

But stumbling out of the locker room and letting a towel “slip” so that people working out see your genitals is a different story. Prosecutors would probably seize on that as showing you were motivated by a sexual reason.

Indecent exposure is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. As punishment, you could see up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. If you have two or more convictions, however, you’ll need to be registered as a sex offender for a decade.

Public Lewdness Explained

This is a slightly different crime. Like indecent exposure, it involves exposing people to offensive nudity or sexual activity without their consent. However, more is required for a public lewdness conviction.

You can be charged under Section 21.07 of the Penal Code if you have sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, or sexual contact in public. If done in private, you can face charges if you were reckless about someone else being present who is offended at what they observed.

As you can see, public lewdness is a step beyond indecent exposure. No sexual contact or intercourse is required for indecent exposure, where it is central to a public lewdness charge.

Because lewdness is more offensive, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which can send you to jail for up to a year and warrant a $4,000 fine. Penalties increase for multiple convictions.

Call our Galveston Sex Crimes Attorney for Legal Help

There is no “minor” sex crimes conviction. Not only will a single misdemeanor ruin your reputation, but there is a real risk you’ll end up on the sex offender registry. Fight back by calling Tad Nelson & Associates today.