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Indecent Exposure Attorney | Indecent Conduct Charges

By Minnesota Indecent Exposure Attorney Thomas Gallagher

These crimes tend to fall into two fact patterns. But prosecutors can charge them under several laws.

Indecent conduct charges tend to involve claims of police or others seeing a couple’s sexual activity.

But indecent exposure accusations tend to claim that someone saw someone displaying their genitals in a socially inappropriate context. Prosecutors generally charge Indecent Exposure crimes under Minnesota Statutes. But, they can also charge under local city ordinances.

Minnesota Statutes §617.23 makes “Indecent Exposure” a misdemeanor, in most cases. If you’re facing charges for one of these crimes, consult Indecent Exposure Attorney Thomas Gallagher.

Prosecutors charge people with “Indecent Conduct” crimes regularly. And normally they file criminal charges in a written Complaint. But police officers can “tab charge” a person with a misdemeanor crime, subject to later review by a prosecutor. And we’ve seen charges with “Indecent Conduct” both ways.

Indecent conduct, and indecent exposure, charges can cite different laws. For example, a Minnesota Statute, or a local city ordinance can be used. And different sections within the Minnesota Statutes and city ordinances can be used. So an indecent conduct attorney will help identify the laws and defenses.

Indecent exposure to a minor

But Minnesota Statutes §617.23 makes “Indecent Exposure” a gross misdemeanor or felony where aggravating elements exist. And aggravating elements include “presence of a minor under 16,” prior similar convictions, or confinement.

Criminal Sexual Conduct Fifth Degree: under 16

If the Complaint charges “lewd exhibition of the genitals in the presence of a minor under the age of 16, knowing or having reason to know the minor is present;” then the charge can be Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fifth Degree, Minnesota Statutes §609.3451. This is a gross misdemeanor. But a prior similar conviction within seven years triggers a felony charge enhancement.

Though most sex crimes trigger predatory offender registration; Fifth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct does not unless charged as a felony.  But you should consult an Indecent Exposure Attorney about this issue.

Disorderly Conduct

A prosecutor could also charge the typical fact pattern as a misdemeanor under Minnesota’s Disorderly Conduct Statute, §609.72, subd. 1 (3):

“engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.”

Minn. Stat. §609.72, subd. 1 (3)

Facing charges under this law? Then call Indecent Exposure Attorney Thomas Gallagher.

Common fact patterns: indecent exposure attorney

Indecent Conduct in a Public Place (or Private Place)

An indecent conduct attorney pays attention to the place.

Minnesota Statutes § 617.23, subd. 1 “Indecent Exposure” creates a misdemeanor for a person’s willful and lewd exposure of their body or private parts; procuring another to expose private parts; or engaging in lewdness or lascivious behavior; in a public place or any place where others are present. Overly broad?

Minnesota Statutes § 609.72, subd. 1(3) “Disorderly Conduct” creates a misdemeanor for a person’s obscene conduct; tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others. Prosecutors charge “indecent conduct” under this statute. Like other “Disorderly Conduct crimes,” the reaction of other people is relevant. That others took no offense can be a defense.

Our standard differs for strip clubs, art events and theaters. So what we consider lewd exposure or “lewdness or lascivious behavior” depends upon context. For example, the First Amendment Right to Free Expression protects speech and conduct some might think “indecent.”

A sign that nudity is natural & healthy. posted nude beach. nude sunbathers sign 450 webp
A sign: nudity is natural

We have successfully defended nude sunbathers ticketed at an isolated, posted nude beach on First Amendment grounds. And we’ve won for topless female sunbathers on Equal Protection grounds.

So a good indecent expsure attorney examines the evidence of place, whether other people were present, and context.

We can find winning defenses in the statutes charged, the U.S. Constitution and Minnesota Constitution, as well as the facts of each case.

Indecent Conduct: Presence of Minor under 16

Minnesota Statutes § 609.3451, subd. 1 “Criminal Sexual Conduct 5th Degree” creates a Gross Misdemeanor for “masturbation or lewd exhibition of the genitals in the presence of a minor under the age of 16, knowing or having reason to know the minor is present.” This one requires “genitals.”

Minnesota Statutes § 617.23, subd. 2 “Indecent Exposure” creates a Gross Misdemeanor for – in the presence of a minor under 16 – willfully, lewdly exposing body or private parts; procuring another to expose private parts; or engaging in open or gross lewdness or lascivious behavior; in a public place or any place where others are present.

You indecent conduct attorney examines whether a child under 16 was present. If so, we consider:

  • was the behavior was lewd?
  • were private parts visible?
  • did the accused have reason to know?


In many situations, others may not consider a person’s appearance or behavior “lewd” or “lascivious,” depending upon context. For example, showering at a health club is not “lewd” or “lascivious.”

Nudity alone is not sexual. Sexuality alone is not “lewd.” Your indecent exposure attorney needs to know this.

Indecent Conduct: the amorous couple

Indecent Conduct crime allegations usually involve an amorous couple observed.

A prosecutor might charge such a case as Indecent Exposure. But usually they charge under more targeted laws, such as Minnesota Statutes §617.23, subdivision 1(3):

“engages in any open or gross lewdness or lascivious behavior, or any public indecency other than behavior specified in this subdivision.”

Minn. Stat. §617.23, subd. 1(3)

Prosecutors rarely use City Ordinances to charge crimes. But sometimes they use them to charge either an amorous couple, or someone police suspect of prostitution.

Discriminatory enforcement: Police tend to enforce these crimes as “neighborhood livability crimes” or under “broken windows policing” theories. Prosecutors enforce them disproportionately against low-income and minority-culture people. One example is Minneapolis Ordinance 385.160 – Indecent conduct.

Public Urination

We have seen Public Urination cases charged as indecent exposure. But it may be possible to show that a person urinated “in public,” without indecent exposure.

And no Minnesota Statute criminalizes public urination.

Though, as an example, Minneapolis Ordinance 227.180 makes it a misdemeanor. Facing public urination charges? Then it’s time for a strong defense. Call Indecent Exposure Attorney Thomas Gallagher.

Fouquet_Madonna 540 webp
Agnès Sorel, often topless in the French court; Virgin & Child, Jean Fouquet (c. 1450)

Nude Beaches

What could be more natural than bathing or swimming nude? Swimming and sunbathing nude is as American as apple pie. So how could that possibly be a crime?

Nudity alone is not indecent. With consent of others there is no crime of exposure. Are people showing at the gym criminals?

We’ve represented women targeted at twin cities nude beaches by male law enforcement officers. This, even though males at the beach outnumbered females 8 to 1.

Constitutional law may provide defenses to enforcement of such laws at nude beaches.

Most nude beaches either have warnings posted or are in remote areas. So they are difficult to find unless actively looking. This makes indecent exposure claims weak. Consent is a defense.

Nude beaches involve First Amendment issues as well as privacy rights and jury nullification potential. Nude beach charge? Call Indecent Exposure Attorney Thomas Gallagher.

Female Breasts

Laws criminalizing the exposure of female breasts violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the laws. After all, males expose their breasts and nipples without fear of persecution.

So it’s unconstitutional to make being female an element of a crime. And yet many of our laws in Minnesota even today, pretend to do just that.

City Ordinances: indecent exposure attorney

An experienced indecent conduct attorney sees prosecutions under City Ordinances.

So, Minneapolis Ordinance §385.160, “Indecent conduct” creates a misdemeanor crime:

“No person, in any public place shall engage in, or offer or attempt to engage in:
(a) Lewd or lascivious conduct;
(b) Sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct;
(c) The indecent or lascivious exposure or use of the human body, or any part thereof; or
(d) Fondling the unclothed genitals of himself or herself or another person.”

Minneapolis Ordinance §385.160

City ordinances vary. But there are similar ordinances in many cities. And compared to state statutes, city ordinances are more often unconstitutionally broad.

Police have tab charged this against a couple making out in a car; in a neighborhood targeted for intolerant policing. This often results in racially disparate-impacts.

And police have abused these ordinances to harass people they suspect of prostitution; but lack evidence of a prostitution crime.

Your indecent conduct attorney can explain the difference between a city ordinance vs. a state statute charge.

Cities have targeted strip clubs and strippers with “Indecent Conduct” types of criminal charges. But the First Amendment protects theatrical performances.

Gay Targeting and Police Stings sometimes result in these kinds of criminal charges. The 2007 high-profile case of U.S. Senator Larry Craig is a case in point. Police set up a “sting” in a men’s restroom at MSP airport to catch men engaging in homosexual activity. And police have set up stings in adult bookstores in past years.

“Indecent Exposure Attorney, how can you defend those people?”

Attorney Thomas Gallagher wants to help people facing a difficult situation. False accusation or not, the charge alone causes suffering. And part of the reason is the social stigma still surrounding human sexuality.

This is not new. See our article: Jesus as Criminal Defense Lawyer: Woman Accused of Adultery.

Keeping your record clean is the goal most have.

Question? Call Attorney Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500

Have a question about a case? Then be sure to give Indecent Conduct Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher a call about it.

What are the four Minnesota offense levels?

Disorderly Conduct Charge

Sex Laws | Minnesota Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutes

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