Indecent Conduct and Indecent Exposure
These crimes tend to fall into two fact patterns, but can be charged by police or prosecutors under several different laws. Indecent conduct allegations tends to involve a couple accused of sexual activity somewhere that police or others were able to see it. Indecent exposure accusations tend to claim that someone was observed displaying their genitals in a socially inappropriate context.
We have seen most Indecent Exposure crimes charged under Minnesota Statutes, though local city ordinances could be used. Minnesota Statutes Section 617.23 (2017) makes “Indecent Exposure” a crime a misdemeanor but also can be a gross misdemeanor or felony if aggravating elements are also proven, such as presence of a minor under 16, prior similar convictions, or confinement.
If the accusation claims “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 Section 609.3451 (2017) — a gross misdemeanor, unless enhanced to a felony by a prior similar conviction within seven years.
The typical alleged fact pattern could also be charged as a misdemeanor under Minnesota’s Disorderly Conduct Statute, Section 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.”
Indecent Conduct crime allegations usually involve an amorous couple observed. Though it is conceivable that such a case might be charged under the same laws mentioned above for Indecent Exposure given the right facts, usually these cases are charged under more targeted laws, such as Minnesota Statutes Section 617.23 (2017), subdivision 1(3) “engages in any open or gross lewdness or lascivious behavior, or any public indecency other than behavior specified in this subdivision.”
City Ordinances are rarely used to charge crimes, but in these cases they are sometimes used to charge either an amorous couple or someone police suspect of prostitution.
Discriminatory enforcement: This application can be part of controversial “neighborhood livability crimes” or “broken windows policing” policies that tend to be enforced against and disproportionately impact low-income and minority-culture people. An example is Minneapolis Ordinance 385.160. – Indecent conduct.
We have seen Public Urination cases charged as indecent exposure. It may be possible to prove a person urinated in public in a prohibited way, without indecent exposure. There is no Minnesota Statute criminalizing public urination, though as an example there is Minneapolis Ordinance 227.180 making it a misdemeanor.
We’ve represented women targeted at twin cities nude beaches by male law enforcement officers where males at the beach outnumbered females 10 to 1. Constitutional law may provide defenses to enforcement of such laws at nude beaches.
Laws criminalizing the exposure of female breasts violate the Constitution’s mandate of equal protection under the laws. Any time men can expose their breasts or nipples, it is unconstitutional to make being female an element of a crime. And yet many of our laws in Minnesota even today, purport to do just that.