Certain sexual conduct in public can result in a serious lawsuit. Many states have specific rules around what behavior constitutes illegal indecent exposure. In today’s blog, we will discuss what activity may result in a charge of public indecency in Ohio and the potential sentencing for that particular behavior, ranging from first degree to fifth degree misdemeanor.
What Is Considered Indecent Exposure?
In Ohio, conviction for indecent exposure, also known as "public indecency," will result in a criminal record and potential registration as a sex offender. An individual can commit the misdemeanor of a public indecency crime in 3 ways:
- exposing their private parts;
- engaging in sexual conduct or masturbation; or
- engaging in conduct that to an ordinary observer would appear to be sexual conduct or masturbation.
Note that the statute defines “private parts” as a person’s genitalia, excluding a woman’s breasts.
Keep in mind that for a person to be guilty of indecent exposure, Ohio law requires the defendant to be doing these acts recklessly, under circumstances in which the person's conduct is likely to be viewed by others who are in the person's physical proximity and who are not members of the person's household.
Aggravated indecent exposure occurs when the defendant knowingly commits public indecency but in front of a minor or if the person has prior convictions for public indecency. Be aware that Ohio considers anyone under the age of 18 to be a minor.
Indecent exposure can be charged as a felony in some situations, and we will explain below the specific sentencing. Anyone accused of aggravated indecent exposure will likely face even harsher penalties, and public indecency charges are also escalated to higher level crimes if the person acts knowingly or if they have prior convictions for public indecency.
Penalties and Sentencing
If a person exposes their private parts in a manner which is likely to be viewed by and be an “affront” to others, their offense of public indecency is typically classified as a fourth degree misdemeanor. This carries the following penalties:
- a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail; and
- a fine of up to $250.
Be aware that a second offense would make the offense a second degree misdemeanor. If the exposure was witnessed by a minor, the defendant can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor or fifth degree felony for a subsequent offense.
Engaging in any public sexual conduct or public masturbation (or that would appear to be such) is typically classified as a third degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. A second offense of such conduct would make it a second degree misdemeanor, and if the sexual conduct was viewed by a minor, the defendant would be charged with a first degree misdemeanor and a fifth degree felony for a subsequent offense.
The act of knowingly exposing oneself, either via sexual conduct or exposed nudity to a minor, is a second degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines. A second or subsequent offense of this kind would make it a first degree misdemeanor, and exposing oneself knowingly to a minor with the intention of luring a minor into sexual activity would make this a more serious charge of a fifth degree felony.
Let an Experienced Attorney Help
If you have been accused of indecent exposure or public indecency, speak with a lawyer immediately. The laws surrounding indecent exposure in Ohio are quite nuanced, and even the smallest detail of your alleged behavior (where you were, what sexual conduct you were engaging in, who witnessed the behavior) could make the difference in whether you are charged with a first or fifth degree misdemeanor. An experienced lawyer can examine the facts of your situation and help you argue for mitigated charges or even an entire dismissal of your case.
Contact our firm at Bridges, Jillisky, Weller & Gullifer, LLC to discuss your case in a free consultation today.