Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure may seem like a minor crime. But in reality, indecent exposure is treated as a serious sex offense in the state of North Dakota. Incarceration, probation, and sex offender registration are real possibilities. Having a criminal defense lawyer defend you against allegations of indecent exposure may be crucial to protecting your future and your good name.

Understanding the Crime of Indecent Exposure in North Dakota

Indecent exposure is made illegal under Section 12.1-20-12.1 of the North Dakota Century Code. The crime of indecent exposure is deemed to have occurred in the state of North Dakota when a person, with intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify that person’s lust, passions, or sexual desires, commits any of the following acts:

  • Masturbates in a public place or in the presence of a minor
  • Exposes one’s penis, vulva, or anus in a public place or to a minor in a public or private place
  • Exposes one’s penis, vulva, or anus by unsolicited electronic means
  • Exposes one’s penis, vulva, or anus by any electronic means to a minor

Public breastfeeding is legal in North Dakota. Accordingly, the act of a woman discreetly breastfeeding her child is not considered indecent exposure under North Dakota law.

In North Dakota, a person can be accused of indecent exposure for exposing themselves in public. However, most municipalities have a separate law for the purpose urinating in public.

For the purpose of North Dakota’s indecent exposure law, “electronic means” includes images and pictures transmitted via electronic mail, electronic messaging, or from an electronic communications device. Put another way, a person can be convicted of indecent exposure for exposing themselves via email, text message, or social media as long as the exposure is unsolicited.

Criminal Penalties for Indecent Exposure Charges in North Dakota

Class A Misdemeanor Indecent Exposure. Indecent exposure is a Class A Misdemeanor if the defendant does not have a previous conviction for indecent exposure or surreptitious intrusion and has not previously been required to register as a sex offender

Maximum term of imprisonment360 days
Period of probation2 to 4 years of supervised probation
Maximum fine$3,000
Sex offender registration required?Yes

Class C Felony Indecent Exposure. Indecent exposure is a Class C Felony if the defendant has previously been convicted of indecent exposure, surreptitious intrusion, or after being required to register as a sex offender. The crime is also a Class C Felony if committed within fifty feet of or on the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary, middle, or high school.

Maximum term of imprisonment5 years
Period of probation5 to 10 years of supervised probation
Maximum fine$10,000
Sex offender registration required?Yes

Class B Felony Indecent Exposure. Indecent exposure is a Class B Felony if the defendant commits the act within fifty feet of or on the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary, middle, or high school after having previously having been convicted of indecent exposure, surreptitious intrusion, or after being required to register as a sex offender.

Maximum term of imprisonment10 years
Period of probation5 to 10 years of supervised probation
Maximum fine$20,000
Sex offender registration required?Yes

Indecent Exposure and Sex Offender Registration

A common question is whether a person accused of indecent exposure in North Dakota will be required to register as a sex offender. The answer is yes. A person who has been convicted of pled guilty to indecent exposure in North Dakota is required to registered as a sex offender.

In North Dakota, sex offender registration can be for a period of 15 years (low risk offenders), 25 years (moderate risk offenders), or life. Being a registered sex offender puts a large number of restrictions and a high level of monitoring on an individual. Such restrictions include a person’s place of residence, choice of employment, limitations on and monitoring of communications between the offender and other people, along with increased probation/parole conditions.

Alternatives to sex offender registration may be available in some indecent exposure cases. Examples include pleading down the charge to a lesser charge, diverting the charge, or finding some other mechanism by which to avoid sex offender registration. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine whether such alternatives are available.

How Indecent Exposure Cases Occur

Indecent exposure cases may be the result of purposeful sexually-charge exposure of one’s private areas in an unwanted an unwelcomed way. But indecent exposure charges may also be the result of false accusations, misunderstandings, and innocent actions that are blown out of proportion. Examples of incidents that can lead to indecent exposure include the following:

  • Urinating in a public place or in front of a minor (even your own child)
  • Fondling oneself or masturbating in public view
  • Flashing a person’s penis or breasts
  • Sexting individuals who do not consent to the communication
  • Sending explicit photos to a minor

Establishing a Defense in Indecent Exposure Cases

Being accused of indecent exposure in North Dakota is an embarrassing experience. But for those who are wrongfully accused or have not met the definition of North Dakota’s indecent exposure statute, a number of potential defenses are available:

  • Alleging that the act which is claimed to be indecent exposure was not for sexual or deviant purposes can be a valid defense to indecent exposure charges. North Dakota law provides that the act must be “with intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify that person’s lust, passions, or sexual desires.” If the act did not meet any of these definitions, then a person is not guilty of indecent exposure.
  • Consent can be used as a defense in indecent exposure cases. A consent defense alleges that any individuals alleged to be victims actually consented to the act. This is of importance in indecent exposure cases because, in many cases, a person cannot actually be found guilty of this crime if any individual who witnessed the act consented to the act.
  • Lack of intent is a valid defense for indecent exposure cases. Under North Dakota’s indecent exposure law, the defendant must have committed the act intentionally. If a person exposes himself/herself without such intent, in any manner provided for under the law, then indecent exposure did not take place.
  • Mistake of fact is a defense in most criminal cases, including to indecent exposure. A mistake of fact defense alleges that the victim and/or prosecution has utilized facts that are misunderstood, misapplied, fabricated, or untruthful. This is important because, as one might expect, many people are wrongfully accused of crimes.

Unless the prosecutor has already indicated that they intend to drop the case entirely and will do so at the next available hearing, speaking with the police or attempting to assert a defense without the assistance of an attorney is a foolish approach to handling a criminal indecent exposure case in North Dakota. In fact, doing so may result in accidental omissions or mistakes that cannot be corrected. Before asserting any defense in a criminal case, you should retain a lawyer.

North Dakota Indecent Exposure Lawyer

Although an indecent exposure charge may not seem as serious as other sexual offenses, the results can be damaging to one’s reputation and harmful to their future. In addition to the potential of registering as a sex offender, jail time, probation/parole, community service, fines, and a great deal of exposure in the media that paints the accused as a sexually perverse deviant may follow. Having a North Dakota indecent exposure attorney who understands the implications of such a criminal charge and how to defend against the same is crucial.