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Understanding the Public Indecency Laws in Indiana

The public indecency laws in Indiana, which are outlined in Article 45 of Indiana Criminal Code, are intended to prevent citizens from exposing other citizens to certain private body parts and sexual acts in both public spaces and on private property. These types of laws, as well as related public nudity laws, are incredibly common in the United States, yet the restrictions and severity of the possible consequences vary quite drastically. For example, the state of Vermont only prohibits “open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior,” which generally means that most forms of public nudity are legal in the state. In contrast, the Indiana public nudity laws contain some of the broadest definitions of nudity in the nation, going so far as to prohibit the “showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple, or the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.” 

Although the laws on public indecency and public nudity in Indiana aren’t always enforced in a uniform manner, it’s still vital that both Hoosiers and visitors of the Hoosier state fully understand the laws as well as the seriousness of the criminal penalties associated with such offenses. Furthermore, if you or a loved one has been charged under the Indiana public indecency laws, it’s best to retain the services of an experienced Indiana sex crimes attorney, like those at Keffer Hirschauer LLP, who understand the nuances of the laws and how to best build a sound defense strategy aimed at limiting criminal penalties or having the charges dropped altogether.  

To speak with an Indiana criminal defense attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation .

Looking for a Criminal Defense Attorney in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today.

The Specifics of the Public Indecency Laws in Indiana

The public indecency laws in Indiana are located in Indiana Code 35-45-4-1. Under these laws, someone can be charged with two different offenses, public indecency and indecent exposure. Public indecency, as defined by the law, occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally, in a public place: 

  • engages in sexual intercourse 
  • engages in other sexual conduct 
  • appears in a state of nudity with the intent to arouse their own sexual desires or the sexual desires of another person 
  • appears in a state of nudity with the intent to be seen by a child under the age of 16 
  • fondles their genitals or the genitals of another person 

For the purposes of this law, nudity is defined as, “the showing of the human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple, or the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.” 

Furthermore, since Indiana criminal code doesn’t explicitly define what constitutes a “public place,” one must look to past rulings by the Indiana Court of Appeals. For example, in the case of Weideman vs. State of Indiana, the Court chose to utilize a definition used by the Indiana Supreme Court in the context of Indiana’s previous public indecency statute from 1979, which defined a public place as “any place where the public is invited or free to go upon special or implied invitation; a place available to all or a certain segment of the public.” 

At the lowest level, public indecency in Indiana is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, this charge can be elevated to a Level 6 felony if the person has a prior, but unrelated conviction for public indecency. Per the Indiana sentencing guidelines, a person convicted of a Level 6 felony in Indiana could face up to 2.5 years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000.  

Indecent Exposure 

Another offense contained in the section of criminal code containing the public indecency laws in Indiana is indecent exposure. As defined in Indiana Code 35-45-4-1(e), a person commits indecent exposure, when they engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct, fondle their genitals or the genitals of another person, or appear in a state of nudity in a place that is not public where they intend to and can be seen by persons other than the invitees or occupants of that place. This offense is considered a Class C misdemeanor, and if convicted, could result in the offender spending up to 60 days in prison and incurring fines of up to $500.  

Although the definitions of public indecency and indecent exposure are very similar, the offenses address two totally different types of situations. To be charged with public indecency, one must commit an act of indecency in a place that is widely available to the public, or at least a certain segment of the public. This could mean the lobby of a hotel, a park or nature reserve, or simply on the sidewalk of a street. In contrast, an act of indecent exposure occurs when an act of indecency is committed in a private space but with the intention and ability to be seen by other people who do not consent to witness the action. For example, an act of indecent exposure could be someone fondling themselves in front of a window that looks out onto a crowded street or exposing themselves to a person who rang their doorbell for a reason other than witnessing the act of indecency.  

Public Nudity 

Although the public indecency laws in Indiana address situations where a person appears in a state of nudity with the intent to arouse or with the intent to be seen by a child younger than the age of 16, Indiana Code 35-45-4-1.5 defines the Indiana public nudity laws. Under this section of criminal code, it is a Class C misdemeanor to knowingly or intentionally appear in a public place in a state of nudity and a Class B misdemeanor to knowingly or intentionally appear in a public place in a state of nudity with the intent to be seen by a person who is 16 years of age or older.  

In addition, the law states that it is Class A misdemeanor to knowingly or intentionally appear in a state of nudity in or on school grounds; in a public park; or with the intent to arouse the sexual desires of another person in a property owned or managed by the department of natural resources. Furthermore, this charge can be elevated to a Level 6 felony if the person has a previous but unrelated conviction for a Class B or Class A misdemeanor offense of public nudity.  

While many people believe that they would never be charged with public nudity, it’s more common than most would think. This is often because a person who is committing an act of public urination is typically charged with public nudity, simply due to the fact that they’re publicly revealing their genitals or buttocks. Given this, it’s vital that all Hoosiers understand the Indiana public nudity laws and the potential consequences of being convicted of such an offense.  

Charged with Public Indecency in Indiana?  

Considering the seriousness of the penalties associated with a conviction under the laws on public indecency in Indiana, it’s vital that anyone accused or charged with this offense speak with an Indiana criminal defense attorney immediately. The founding partners at Keffer Hirschauer LLP, Bradley Keffer and Tom Hirschauer III, are former deputy prosecutors who have experience on both sides of the criminal justice system. They are familiar with the local courts across the state of Indiana and have deep experience in negotiation as well as inside the courtroom. Most importantly, they are passionate about protecting the rights of Hoosiers, and will do everything it takes to secure the best possible outcome for their clients – whether that be the dismissal or reduction of charges or a not-guilty verdict.  

If you need a high-quality, dedicated attorney that will fight for you in court, contact our criminal defense law firm today by calling 317-857-0160 or completing our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

Summary
Understanding the Public Indecency Laws in Indiana
Article Name
Understanding the Public Indecency Laws in Indiana
Description
This article discusses the public indecency laws in Indiana, as well as the laws on public nudity in Indiana.
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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