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What Is Indecent Exposure in South Carolina?

What Is Indecent Exposure in South Carolina?

What Qualifies as Indecent Exposure in South Carolina?

Indecent exposure is a serious offense that can result in devastating consequences if convicted, including hefty fines, prison time, and even mandatory sex offender registration.

South Carolina state laws in particular are especially serious when it comes to indecent exposure and other sex crimes, making it all the more crucial for defendants to seek support from a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know has been charged with indecent exposure, it's important to understand the potential penalties and what counts as indecent exposure under state law to successfully defend your rights in court.

Keep reading to learn more about indecent exposure definitions, laws, and penalties in South Carolina.

Understanding Indecent Exposure in South Carolina

Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for sex crime offenders to face unfair stigmas and stereotypes following a criminal conviction.

Regardless of whether the offense was well-intentioned or unintended altogether, many defendants find themselves cast out by society as perverts or pedophiles, even if the act itself didn’t result in any harm.

Everyday Examples of Indecent Exposure

There are numerous scenarios that can lead to unjust consequences for those charged with indecent exposure, such as:

  • Mistaken eyewitnesses. For example, if a person in a parking garage is pouring out a water bottle that baked in the car all day, a passerby may only notice the person's turned back and the sound of urination. This might lead the witness to make a false report before they pause to consider other factors (such as their own impaired vision) that may have indicated that the alleged offender was, in fact, "decent."
  • Public urination. Public defecation and urination are illegal in every state, South Carolina included. While the mere act of urinating in public doesn't automatically result in a conviction, it can impose life-changing consequences in the lives of well-meaning people who didn't intend to offend others or were unaware that there were people nearby in the first place.
  • Changing in public. Life is full of unexpected curveballs, and in some cases, people may find that a quick wardrobe change in a public space or vehicle is warranted or needed. While this decision is often an innocent one, it can lead to severe penalties if charged with indecent exposure.
  • Streaking. Pranksters aren’t immune to being charged with a crime after a joke, no matter how well-intended it was. From a football fan streaking at the Super Bowl to a rowdy high schooler streaking through the cafeteria to impress a crush, it’s easy for jokers to forget that their “fifteen minutes of fame” can result in criminal charges.
  • Private behavior that was accidentally observed. It can be horrifying to discover that intentionally private behavior was accidentally seen or observed by the public. For example, if a couple excuses themselves to an unoccupied room or bathroom at a nightclub to engage in sexual activity, but forgets to lock the door behind them, this can result in accusations of intentional exposure.

Required Evidence for an Indecent Exposure Conviction

According to SC Code of Laws §16-15-130, the illegal act of indecent exposure occurs when someone “willfully, maliciously, and indecently” exposes themselves “in a public place, on the property of others, or to the view of any person on a street or highway.”

Common types of indecent exposure include:

  • Flashing
  • Public urination
  • Exposing one’s genitals in public
  • Exposing one’s genitals to a minor

To convict the defendant of indecent exposure, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all of the following are true:

  • The act was willful.
  • The offender exposed body parts.
  • The exposure occurred in a public place.
  • The exposure occurred in the presence of at least one person.

Penalties for Indecent Exposure

While indecent exposure is often charged as a misdemeanor in South Carolina, this crime may also result in felony charges under certain circumstances, such as exposing oneself in the presence of a minor under 18 years old, or if the defendant was previously convicted of a sex crime.

Even for first-time offenders, however, being convicted of indecent exposure is punishable by some or all of the following penalties:

  • Fines
  • Up to 3 years in prison
  • Sex offender registration in extreme cases

How to Defend Against Indecent Exposure Charges

While the consequences of an indecent exposure conviction can be severe, there are various ways to defend against an indecent exposure charge. Keep in mind that it’s crucial to consult with a trusted criminal defense lawyer to determine the most effective legal strategy to employ in your defense.

Common defenses against indecent exposure charges include:

  • Lack of willful intent. Because indecent exposure entails a “willful and malicious” action, a lack of intent can be an adequate legal strategy to defend against indecent exposure charges. For example, an individual who publicly urinates in an empty parking lot far from traffic likely isn’t acting with the intent of drawing public attention to their genitals for sexual gratification.
  • Accidental exposure. Similarly to an absence of “willful and malicious” intent, this strategy argues that the defendant didn’t break the law on purpose; rather, they indecently exposed themselves by accident. For example, imagine a man who stops for groceries on his way home from the gym. When reaching for an item on a tall shelf, he unknowingly exposes part of his genitalia when his athletic shorts shift with his movement. In this case, accidental exposure can be an effective strategy to use in his defense.
  • False witness testimonies. While witness testimonies can be powerful evidence in court, even the most well-meaning witness can mistake what they saw—especially if the offense was committed at nighttime, in low lighting, or in enclosed spaces. If an observing third party mistook a legal act for indecent exposure, this can be a useful defense to employ in court.

Relentlessly Defending the Accused in South Carolina

If you have been charged with indecent exposure in Lexington or the surrounding area, it’s crucial to know how state and federal laws can apply to you. A criminal conviction can result in life-altering consequences, including imprisonment and sex offender registration.

With so much at stake, it is crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide your legal steps accordingly. Our dependable legal team at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has an in-depth understanding of criminal law, giving us a formidable edge in the courtroom.

Our passionate defense attorneys are well-equipped to protect your hard-earned reputation, aggressively defend your rights, and determine the most effective legal strategy to avoid harsh penalties. We take pride in providing each and every client with personalized attention and aggressive representation.

If you've been charged with a crime in South Carolina, you deserve a strong defense to clear your name and avoid serious penalties. Call (803) 359-3301 to schedule a free consultation


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