Being charged with a sex crime can be one of the most difficult types of offenses to be charged with. Even if the offense is a misdemeanor, there can be an overwhelming sense of embarrassment that comes with having to face an accusation of this nature. It is not the job of a criminal defense attorney to judge his clients. Experienced criminal defense attorneys know that good people make mistakes and that no one should not be judged by a single embarrassing accusation.
Two offenses that are regularly charged in the Houston area are public lewdness and indecent exposure. These two sexually related offenses share some elements in common. Both can lead to serious legal and professional consequences. If you are charged with either of these two offenses, hiring an effective criminal defense attorney will help maximize your chances of keeping the accusation off your record. Sex crimes can be highly specialized and hiring an attorney with experience in indecent exposure and public lewdness is critical.
Indecent exposure is regularly charged in the Houston area. Under the Texas Penal Code 21.08, a person commits the offense of indecent exposure if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with the intent to gratify the sexual desire of any person and he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his act. Typically, these cases are charged after a person is caught masturbating in a public place or a place where others are likely to see. On occasion, agencies like the Houston Police Department engage in stings in areas like adult bookstores or movie theaters where there are complaints of men openly masturbating.
Many of these arrests are highly questionable, as people go to adult bookstores and movie theaters specifically to view pornography and it is difficult to imagine just how “offended” other patrons could realistically be. In these instances, a criminal defense attorney should argue that it is impossible to be reckless about whether another person will be offended since everyone at the establishment is there for the express purpose of viewing pornography.
Indecent exposure is a Class “B” misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days and jail and a $2000 fine. Additionally, a second conviction carries sex offender registration for a period of 10 years after any probation of jail time (although a deferred adjudication probation would not count as a conviction). As can be imagined, a conviction for indecent exposure could have very detrimental consequences for a person’s personal or professional life.
Public lewdness is somewhat less frequently charged in the Houston area. Under Texas Penal Code 21.07, a person commits the offense by engaging in sexual conduct in a public place, or if not in a public place, the person is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed. In Texas, public lewdness is most commonly charged when people have sex in public bathrooms or engage in sexual acts in strip clubs, or adult video stores. Again, occasionally police agencies make these arrests as a part of stings in strip clubs where patrons and dancers openly engage in sexual contact. Public lewdness is a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to 360 days in jail and a $4000 fine. Public lewdness is not subject to sex offender registration.
Defenses to Indecent Exposure and Public Lewdness
Both indecent exposure and public lewdness cases are very fact-dependent, and a criminal defense attorney should focus on the elements and specific wording of the statutes to try and get the case dismissed. For example, the indecent exposure statute requires that the act of exposing oneself is done “with the intent to arouse or gratify,” so it can sometimes be argued that a person did not intend to expose himself in a sexual manner (if the person was urinating, for example). Although there is no specific intent required in the public lewdness statute, it does require an element of recklessness if the act is not alleged to have been committed in a public place, and this element is often debatable.
Very often, indecent exposure cases and public lewdness cases are reported by strangers, so it is sometimes possible to argue that there was a mistake as to the person or person who were engaged in the act, or that the person who reported the act was mistaken about what he or she saw.
The goal is to protect your record and reputation. If your public lewdness or indecent exposure case is dismissed or if you are found “not guilty” at trial, then you would be eligible to have your records expunged. This is the best possible result in a criminal case. If you complete a deferred adjudication probation, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about whether you might be eligible to have your records sealed (also known as a non-disclosure). If you are charged with public lewdness or indecent exposure anywhere in the Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja is an excellent choice and can help you maximize your chances of keeping this offense off of your record. Get in touch with our office today.