If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with public indecency it is important to speak with an experienced Columbus public indecency attorney immediately. A conviction for public indecency will go on your criminal record. While the criminal sentence may not be substantial, the non-criminal consequences could significantly affect your future.
In Ohio, you can potentially face serious criminal charges for engaging in what you may believe to be silly or fun behavior. Streaking across a college campus, urinating in public, and flashing a friend across the street are all seemingly harmless acts. Ohio’s public indecency laws, however, make such behavior illegal.
Ohio Public Indecency Laws
What is public indecency and when could your behavior land you in legal trouble? Broadly speaking, the crime of public indecency is exposing yourself or engaging in sexual conduct (including masturbation) in the view of the public. There are five separate ways you can commit the crime of public indecency in Ohio. ORC Section 2907 makes it a crime of public indecency to:
- Expose your private parts (genitals, excludes female breasts);
- Engage in sexual conduct or masturbation;
- Engage in conduct that to an ordinary observer would appear to be sexual conduct or masturbation; or
- Engage in masturbation (any behavior that involves stimulation or manipulation of the genitals);
- Expose your private parts with the purpose of personal sexual arousal or gratification; or
- Expose your private parts to lure a minor into sexual activity.
To be illegal, this conduct must be done when it is likely to be viewed by and offend others who are in your physical proximity. Family and household members are excluded from the pool of potential victims.
The actual charge for public indecency will depend on your state of mind when you committed the unlawful act. Ohio makes it a crime to both recklessly and knowingly engage in conduct that is considered indecent to the public.
Reckless Public Indecency
What does it take for conduct to be considered reckless? Reckless behavior is that which displays a conscious disregard that substantial and unjustifiable risk could occur. Basically, reckless behavior is knowing that there is a substantial risk of offending or harming someone by engaging in certain behavior but doing so anyway. For example, let’s say someone spontaneously decides to have sex in their car with their spouse, this is something that is actually quite common, especially if you’re to view videos from https://www.hdtubemovies.xxx/ and similar sites that can display such sexual acts for viewing stimulation. If they engaged in sexual conduct in a busy parking lot where another person could potentially see, they may be guilty of public indecency. If, however, they moved their car to a more discreet location and purposefully took steps to hide their activity from the public view, it may be more difficult to prove that they were reckless.
Knowingly Engage in Public Indecency
What does it take knowingly engage in illegal conduct? Ohio defines “knowingly” engaging in conduct with a conscious disregard of the probability and likelihood that a substantial and unjustifiable risk could occur. A crime that committed knowingly requires an understanding that certain behavior has negative consequences that are “likely to exist” and engaging in that behavior anyway. For example, let’s say that a man frequents the park and sits on a bench across from a playground. The man masturbates or sticks his hands into his pants in a way that would make it appear as though he was masturbating. He should know that if he sits in a public park by a busy playground there is a very good likelihood that other people would be able to see his conduct. He should know that this conduct, if viewed, would be offensive or harmful. The man would probably be guilty of public indecency.
Penalties for Public Indecency in Ohio
In Ohio, the crime of public indecency can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense. The severity of the punishment will depend on (1) the specific act and (2) your state of mind. If you have prior convictions for public indecency or other Ohio sex crimes, or if the victim of your act is a minor, you may face aggravated penalties.
Recklessly exposing your private parts:
- First Offense: Fourth Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense with Prior Conviction: Third Degree Misdemeanor
- Prior Conviction and Victim Includes Minor: Second Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense With 2+ Convictions: Second Degree Misdemeanor
- 2+ Convictions and Victim Includes Minor: First Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense with 3+ Convictions and Minor Victim: Fifth Degree Felony
Recklessly engage in sexual conduct or masturbation OR recklessly engage in conduct that an ordinary observer would appear to be sexual conduct or masturbation:
- First Offense: Third Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense with Prior Conviction: Second Degree Misdemeanor
- Prior Conviction and Victim Includes Minor: First Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense With 2+ Convictions: First Degree Misdemeanor
- 2+ Convictions and Victim Includes Minor: Fifth Degree Felony
Knowingly engage in masturbation, OR knowingly engage in sexual conduct, OR knowingly engage in conduct that an ordinary observer would appear to be sexual conduct or masturbation:
- First Offense: Second Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense with Prior Conviction: First Degree Misdemeanor
- Offense With 2+ Convictions: Fifth Degree Felony
Knowingly expose private parts for purpose of sexual arousal or gratification or to lure a minor into sexual activity:
- First Offense: First Degree Misdemeanor
- Prior Conviction: Fifth Degree Felony
If you are convicted of misdemeanor public indecency you could face as little as 30 days in jail and as many as 180 days in jail. You may also be required to pay monetary fines of up to $1,000, perform community service, and/or serve a term of probation. If you are convicted of felony public indecency you could face 6-12 months in jail. You may also be required to pay monetary fines of up to $2,500, perform community service, and/or serve a term of probation.
Defenses to Public Indecency Charges in Ohio
The prosecutor who is handling your case will have to prove all of the elements of the crime of public indecency. If you are charged with engaging in sexual conduct in view of the public, the prosecutor will have to prove (1) you acted recklessly or knowingly, (2) you were in the view of the public, and (3) you engaged in a prohibited act. When you hire an experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney to represent you, they will try to undermine the prosecution’s case. They will do this by pointing to evidence and information that weakens their case against you while also shifting culpability away from you. Defenses to charges of public indecency could include:
- You lacked the required state of mind/mens rea. The prosecutor must prove that you acted recklessly or knowingly. This can be complicated and difficult to prove in some cases. Your attorney will emphasize evidence that indicates you did not have the required state of mind to commit the crime.
- You were not in the public view. The prosecutor must also prove that you engaged in prohibited conduct in a location where the conduct was likely to be viewed by others in close proximity. Your attorney can argue that your conduct was not in public nor was it likely to be viewed by others in close physical proximity.
- A false accusation. The prosecutor must also prove that you actually did engage in the prohibited act. Your attorney can argue that you were falsely accused and present evidence to support your lack of guilt.
Experienced Columbus Public Indecency Attorney
Have you been charged with public indecency in Ohio? If so, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced Columbus public indecency attorney. The prosecutor begins investigating and building a case against you immediately following your arrest. The sooner you hire an attorney to represent you, the sooner they can begin to attack the prosecution’s case.
There are serious non-criminal consequences of a public indecency conviction. Employers, landlords, and schools who choose to run background checks will see the conviction on a criminal record. This may make it difficult to get a new job, find an apartment, or even enroll at a school or university. The best way to limit the potential negative consequences of a public indecency conviction is to hire an experienced Columbus Public Indecency attorney to handle your case.
Adam Burke has more than a decade of criminal defense experience and has helped to defend countless clients against a variety of criminal charges. Mr. Burke will tenaciously fight to have any public indecency charges against you reduced or dropped. He understands that even a small blemish on your criminal record can have significant consequences. Contact his office today to learn more about how he can help you fight the public indecency charges you face. He offers a free initial consultation to help you gain a better understanding of the seriousness of the situation.