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What Are the Consequences of Indecent Exposure in Washington?

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Facing an indecent exposure charge in Washington can be a harrowing experience. The line between a harmless act and a criminal offense can sometimes blur, leading to criminal charges and significant penalties. If you are charged with indecent exposure after an accident or misunderstanding, it is essential to learn the laws surrounding this offense and to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Washington’s Laws on Indecent Exposure

In Washington, RCW 9A.88.010 defines the laws that govern indecent exposure. The statute categorizes this act as intentionally making an open and obscene exposure of oneself or another person in a manner that is likely to cause alarm or offense.

The severity of the charges varies based on the circumstances. Typically, indecent exposure is treated as a misdemeanor. However, if the exposure is directed at a person under 14 years of age, it escalates to a gross misdemeanor. Furthermore, if the defendant has a previous conviction for indecent exposure or another sex offense, the charge becomes a class C felony.

Potential Penalties of an Indecent Exposure Conviction

An indecent exposure conviction can have far-reaching penalties. For a misdemeanor offense, the maximum sentence includes 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The consequences intensify when the offense involves a minor or is a second offense, potentially leading to gross misdemeanor or felony charges.

Washington does not require people convicted of indecent exposure to register as a sex offender. However, if you are convicted of this crime and move to a state with different laws, you could be required to register, especially in cases that involve minors.

Beyond the legal penalties, an indecent exposure conviction can wreak havoc on your personal life. It can pose significant barriers to finding employment, securing housing, and maintaining your reputation in the community. 

How to Defend Against Indecent Exposure Charges

People accused of indecent exposure have the right to defend themselves and their side of the story. There are two common defenses that lawyers often use to reduce the potential penalties or get the charges dropped completely: public urination and lack of intent.

  • Public Urination: Urinating in public is an infraction in Washington, punishable by a $250 fine. However, many people who commit this offense are unjustly charged with indecent exposure. Your attorney can help prove that the act was not intended as an obscene exposure but instead qualifies as public urination, helping reduce the severity of the penalties.
  • Lack of Intent: For indecent exposure to constitute a crime, the act must be intentional. If the exposure was accidental or unintentional, your attorney can use this information to defend your rights. Your lawyer can argue that you did not commit the crime as defined by state law and therefore the charges against you should be dropped.

Given the complexities and potential consequences of indecent exposure charges, it is imperative to seek legal counsel. A Washington criminal defense attorney can provide guidance, assess the specifics of your case, and help you navigate the legal system to achieve the best possible outcome. After your arrest, speak to a Tacoma criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your next steps.

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