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Receiving any sort of criminal conviction can bring numerous consequences. Some criminal convictions, of course, are worse than others. And the worse the crime is, the more severe the consequences.

Minnesota prosecutes sex crimes at several different levels that sometimes carry unique consequences. Notably, some sex offenses require a person to officially register as a sex offender. Because it is prosecuted as a sexual offense, anyone accused of indecent exposure in Minnesota should understand the rules and consequences surrounding it.

If you are wondering, Is indecent exposure a felony? Or you may wonder what sort of public indecency penalty exists. Let the defense team at Arechigo & Stokka break down the rules and consequences surrounding indecent exposure in MN.

What Is Indecent Exposure in Minnesota?

When you think of indecent exposure, you might picture a streaker running onto a football field or someone at the beach without a top on.  But do these situations actually qualify as indecent exposure in Minnesota?

To answer this question we need to look at Minnesota Statute 617.23 on indecent exposure. According to the statute, the state can prosecute someone for indecent exposure at three levels—misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony.

All three levels require that the act occurs either in a public place or a place where others are present. But please note that Minnesota cannot charge a breastfeeding woman with indecent exposure.

The Indecent Exposure Statute Explained

At its least severe level, Minnesota prosecutes indecent exposure as a misdemeanor. If the “public” requirement is met, there are three acts that qualify:

  1. Willfully and lewdly exposing one’s body or private parts; or
  2. Persuading or coercing another person to expose their own private parts; or
  3. Engaging in any open or gross lewdness or lascivious behavior, or any public indecency that does not specifically appear in this rule.

The same three options also apply to indecent exposure when charged as a gross misdemeanor and as a felony. In those instances, however, there are additional qualifications.

Indecent Exposure As a Gross Misdemeanor

For the state to pursue an indecent exposure infraction as a gross misdemeanor, one’s actions must first occur in the presence of others and fulfill one of the three options noted in the previous paragraph. In addition, the individual must commit the act either:

  1. In the presence of a minor under 16 years of age; or
  2. Have a prior conviction for indecent exposure; or
  3. Have a prior conviction for another sexual offense.

There are many other sexual offenses that Minnesota can charge an individual with. In fact, there are five lengthy Minnesota criminal sexual conduct statutes.

Each of them qualifies as a sexual offense and will aggravate a misdemeanor indecent exposure charge to a gross misdemeanor if on one’s criminal record. The same applies to similar convictions from states other than Minnesota.

Indecent Exposure As a Felony

Finally, at its most severe level, Minnesota can prosecute indecent exposure as a felony. There are two routes to a felony indecent exposure charge.

First, felony indecent exposure occurs when someone’s public actions meet any of the aforementioned qualifications in the presence of a minor and while having a prior conviction (or adjudication as a minor) for a sexual offense.

Second, felony indecent exposure occurs when someone, publicly or around others, intentionally exposes their private parts to another while confining or otherwise restricting that person’s movement.

The Importance of Intent

Indecent exposure is often a tricky crime to prosecute. That is because an essential element of all indecent exposure charges is that the prosecution must demonstrate that someone intentionally exposed themselves. Depending on the circumstances, one’s intent can be difficult to establish.

Many people’s actions meet the basic requirements for indecent exposure save for intent, so false accusations are not uncommon. For example, suppose the wind blows open someone’s robe while bringing their trash cans in from the curb.

This may expose their body to others, but because it is unintentional it does not constitute indecent exposure. As it happens, lack of intent is one of the most common defenses against indecent exposure charges.

Our Examples

Now, let’s go back to the examples noted at the beginning of this section. We can see now that both of those actions would likely qualify as misdemeanor indecent exposure offenses. Someone not wearing a swimsuit at a public beach would expose their private parts to others on the beach without question.

However, if their swimsuit fell off by accident, indecent exposure would not apply. Someone streaking across a football field would also meet the qualifications for an indecent exposure misdemeanor charge. The entire intention behind streaking at a sporting event is to expose one’s self in public.

Finally, we should note that if minors under the age of 16 were present in either of these situations, the individual might face a gross misdemeanor indecent exposure charge. 

Penalties for an Indecent Exposure Conviction in MN

The penalties differ depending on what level the state prosecutes an indecent exposure charge. In general, one may face public indecency fines, jail time, or both, at the following levels:

  • Misdemeanor: Up to 90 days in jail, up to $1,000 fine, or both;
  • Gross Misdemeanor: Up to 365 days in jail, up to $3,000 fine, or both; or
  • Felony: Sex offender registration, up to 5 years in prison, up to $10,000 fine, or both.

Having to register as a sex offender can affect many aspects of your life. It can limit where the law allows you to live, to work, and who you can work with. One thing is clear from these penalties: Minnesota can severely punish those convicted of indecent exposure at any level.

Are You Facing a Minnesota Indecent Exposure Accusation?

A Minnesota indecent exposure charge can severely impact the trajectory of your life. If you face such an accusation, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced sex crime attorney to help you fight the charge.

The defense attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka know how daunting these accusations can feel. With the help of our experienced criminal defense team, we can help you protect your constitutional rights, your freedom, and help you navigate the legal process from start to finish.

Our attorneys have decades of experience helping hundreds of clients and are eager to help you. Protect your freedom. Call us at Arechigo & Stokka today for a free consultation!

Author Photo

John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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