When most people think about someone on the sex offender registry, they imagine individuals guilty of truly horrific crimes that hurt others. Rape. Incest. Distributing child pornography.
You wouldn’t necessarily imagine a person who had behaved in a sexually unacceptable way, but one that caused no physical harm to anyone else. You wouldn’t, for example, immediately think of someone who committed something like indecent exposure. However, if certain aggravating factors are present, that is exactly what can happen.
What Is “Indecent Exposure,” and How Can It Land You on the Sex Offender Registry?
Florida law says that a person has committed lewd activity (aka indecent exposure) when they “expose or exhibit one’s sexual organs in public or on the private premises of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private premises, in a vulgar or indecent manner, or to be naked in public except in any place provided or set apart for that purpose.”
In other words, you can’t be naked in public or expose yourself to someone (even privately) in a way that is “vulgar or indecent.” That may seem to be pretty straightforward, but if you think about it, it covers a lot of ground.
For example, even urinating in public could be considered indecent exposure if the state attempts to argue that you engaged in the act with “lascivious intent.” Thankfully, breastfeeding is specifically mentioned in Florida law, and it is not a crime to breastfeed a child in public.
The crime of indecent exposure is generally charged as a misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. However, as mentioned above, certain aggravating factors can bump the charge up to a felony and earn you the lifelong penalties associated with being placed on Florida’s sex offender registry.
What are these aggravating factors? Essentially, the statute says you have to commit your offense in the presence of someone under the age of 16. Specifically, if someone under 16 is present and a person:
“1. Intentionally masturbates;
2. Intentionally exposes the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner; or
3. Intentionally commits any other sexual act that does not involve actual physical or sexual contact with the victim, including, but not limited to, sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, or the simulation of any act involving sexual activity…”
If the incident occurs between a “covered person” and a “forensic client,” it may also qualify as sexual misconduct under Florida law. Examples might include lewd or lascivious behavioral from a police officer or doctor toward a suspect or patient, respectively.
Moreover, if you merely witness sexual misconduct and fail to report it to law enforcement, you may be charged with a first degree misdemeanor – a charge that, when associated with this particular offense, may require you to register as a sex offender.
The Penalties of the Florida Sex Offender Registry
Sex offender registration is a unique punishment that other criminals – even those convicted of incredibly serious offenses – do not have to deal with after they have served their time.
Florida sex offenders have a number of basic registration obligations that they have to meet. These include giving personal information to their local law enforcement office (including cell phone numbers, palm prints, and social media accounts) and updating this information two to four times a year. Offenders must also report to local law enforcement when they plan to travel outside of the country or state. For certain offenders, being on the sex offender registry means that they are limited from occupying certain spaces or contacting certain people.
The registration is a public list. This means that neighbors, employers, potential dates, and more can look up your name and easily find your sexual criminal history. Not only is registration a burden on your everyday life from having to worry that people will learn about your past indiscretions, it can severely limit your ability to do things like find housing, get a job, and more.
Don’t think you can just stop registering, either – failing to register is a criminal offense.
Watch Out for Surprise Charges That Can Land You on the Registry
Even if your initial charge is simple indecent exposure, don’t assume that you are in the clear and do not have to worry about being placed on the sex offender registry. Often, defendants will be charged with an initial offense only to have more charges added on before the case goes to trial.
These additional offenses may be enough to push you “over the edge” and into territory that qualifies you for registration. The best defense? Start fighting indecent exposure charges now. There are many ways to battle these types of charges. To learn more, talk to a Florida sex crimes lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.