Understanding Indecent Exposure Charges in Texas

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on August 10, 2023

Indecent exposure sounds very old-fashioned and may sound as if it’s basically harmless. When you hear the term, you likely think of a guy wearing an overcoat skulking around in a back alley, prepared to expose himself when the opportunity arises. However, indecent exposure is a crime in the State of Texas, and a conviction can leave you facing an uncertain future.

Exposing yourself in any way that is deemed indecent in the eyes of the law is against the law, and a conviction for indecent exposure comes with hefty fines and harsh penalties. In addition, you will face the immense social stigma involved. If you find yourself facing a charge of indecent exposure, you should not delay consulting with an experienced Florence criminal attorney.

What Is Considered Indecent Exposure in Texas?

Under Texas Penal Code § 21.08, a person can face indecent exposure charges for exposing any part of his or her genitals or anus to other people with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual arousal of others. A person accused of indecent exposure must be reckless about whether others might get offended or alarmed by the exposure.

It does not matter how long the exposure lasts as long as the other elements of indecent exposure are present. Even the briefest exposure can be classified as indecent exposure.

A person who exposes his or her private parts to others may not face any criminal charges if the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person intended to arouse someone. In most cases, urinating in public may not meet the definition of indecent exposure under Texas law unless there was the intent to arouse someone.

It is also important to point out that the definition of indecent exposure does not include female breasts. For this reason, whether or not a woman can be charged with indecent exposure for exposing her breasts to others in public is a tricky question. While the woman may not face indecent exposure charges in Texas, she may be charged with disorderly conduct.

While proving the element of intent can be challenging, the State of Texas is not afraid to employ creative means when making a case, which makes bringing your strongest defense from the outset critical. Work closely with a Florence criminal defense attorney to give your case the best chance of a positive resolution.

Is It Indecent Exposure?

The law can be quite prudish, and something that you might consider to be a case of letting your hair down may be regarded by the law as full-on indecent exposure. Even if your actions were not sexual in nature and no minors were involved, a conviction could land you on the sex offender registry (which is exactly as serious as it sounds).

Your intention at the time that you are accused of having exposed yourself indecently can play a significant role in your case. Consider the following situations:

  • Were you running from your pool into your home with only a skimpy towel as a cover?

  • Did you accidentally lock yourself out of your home in a state of undress, and were you attempting to go back inside?

  • Were you just engaging in a harmless prank in which you were good-naturedly mooning the opposing team at a sporting event?

In these instances, there is clearly no intention on your part to arouse or seriously offend anyone else, which may keep the prosecution from pursuing the matter wholeheartedly. In other words, your perceived intention matters. Contact a Florence criminal defense attorney right away to help you prove that you did not intend to arouse or offend anyone.

How Does Indecent Exposure Relate to Public Lewdness?

The crime of indecent exposure is a form of public lewdness, but it is important to understand that the act doesn’t need to be performed in public for the charge to apply. Common examples of indecent exposure include the following acts:

  • Changing one’s clothes in front of others with the intention of arousing sexual desire and without concern regarding the sensibilities of those present

  • Streaking across a football field with the intention of arousing sexual desire without concern for the feelings of the onlookers

  • Flashing someone for one’s own sexual gratification without taking the sensibilities of the person being flashed – or anyone else in the vicinity – into account

When the act includes unwanted touching or groping or segues into attempted rape, the charge is elevated to sexual assault.

Can You Face Indecent Exposure Charges for Being Naked in Your Own Home?

Summers in Texas keep getting longer, drier, and hotter by the year. It is not uncommon for temperatures to rise above 100°F in the summer in Texas, which is why Texans escape the heat by staying indoors with air conditioning or wearing minimal clothing.

However, some stay indoors with no clothing at all. But can you be charged with indecent exposure for being naked in your own home in Texas?

While you can face indecent exposure charges for being naked in public, you may also be charged with indecent exposure if you expose your genitals or anus to the public while on your private property. A simple example would be to stand completely naked on your porch.

However, even if someone sees you naked in your home, the prosecution must prove that you intended to arouse the person who saw you. It is advised to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you dismiss the charges filed against you for being naked on your private property.

What Are the Penalties for Indecent Exposure in Texas?

A first-time charge for indecent exposure will likely leave you facing a relatively lenient Class B misdemeanor, which carries up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000. Community service and probation may also come into play.

However, if the charge is your second, you could find yourself facing a felony charge, which means more time behind bars and steeper fines. You may also be required to register as a sex offender for at least 10 years.

If your indecent exposure is alleged to focus on a child who is not yet 17, the charge can be elevated to indecency with a child by exposure, which is also a felony offense and carries fines of up to $10,000.

In addition, you can face the following consequences of an indecent exposure conviction in Texas:

  • Permanent criminal record

  • Difficulty finding employment

  • Difficulty finding housing

  • Inability to apply for certain jobs

  • Inability to apply for certain educational programs

  • Revocation of your professional licensure

  • Public humiliation

The stigma of being convicted of indecent exposure—or any other sex crime, for that matter—can last a lifetime. For this reason, it is critical to contact a skilled criminal lawyer if you have been charged with indecent exposure to discuss your defense strategy.

Can Indecent Exposure Affect Your Immigration Status?

If you are not a citizen of the United States and are hit with a charge of indecent exposure, a conviction could lead to deportation. Federal law includes crimes of “moral turpitude” as barring citizenship. This broad charge is so loosely defined that it can apply to nearly any illegal activity, including indecent exposure.

To increase the pressure, the U.S. requires “good moral character” in order to apply for citizenship, which is another barrier if you have an indecent exposure conviction on your record.

What If You Are Required to Register on the Texas Sex Offender Registry?

If your conviction leads to registration on Texas’s sex offender registry, it will significantly increase the difficulties you face after you’ve served any applicable jail time. To begin, you will be required to register and verify your relevant records at least once a year. Failure to do either is a felony.

What Is the Texas Sex Offender Registry?

The sex offender registry in Texas refers to a list of the people in the state who have specific kinds of sex crime convictions on their records. The registry is maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the information included flows from all the following sources:

The Texas registry does not include information about offenders in other states.

What Are the Risk Levels?

The Texas sex offender registry classifies offenders into three different risk levels:

  • Offenders who are at low risk of committing another sexual offense

  • Offenders who are at moderate risk of continuing to commit sexual offenses

  • Offenders who are at high risk of continuing to commit sexual offenses

Those who have a second indecent exposure conviction are likely to be classified as less likely to commit another sexual offense. These offenders will generally only face 10 years on the registry. While this is less severe than the lifetime of registration that many others face, it remains an exceptionally serious consequence that can be difficult to overcome.

What Information Is Included on the Registry?

The sex offender registry in Texas includes all the following information about each registrant:

  • Physical description including race, gender, height, and weight – accompanied by photos

  • Date of birth

  • Any aliases

  • Physical address

  • Assigned risk level

  • Details of the conviction that led to the registration

In other words, all of this will become a matter of public record that anyone can look up. Further, news related to registration tends to spread quickly.

All of the following information can’t be included on the registry:

  • Driver’s license number

  • Social Security number

  • Phone number, either landline or cell phone

  • Employer’s name, address, or phone number

  • Any information that would lead to identification of the victim involved

Which Offenses Lead to 10 Years on the Registry?

Convictions for all the following crimes generally lead to a required 10 years on the registry:

  • A first offense of indecent exposure involving a child

  • A second offense of indecent exposure involving an adult

  • A first offense of unlawful restraint of or kidnapping a child

  • The online solicitation of a minor

  • Prostitution

  • Bestiality

  • Statutory rape – sex with someone who is under the age of consent in Texas, which is 17

  • Attempt or conspiracy to commit a sex crime that requires registration

Which Offenses Lead to Registration for Life?

The following kinds of offenses generally require offenders to register for life:

  • A second incident of indecent exposure involving a child

  • A second incident of unlawful restraint or kidnapping of a child under the age of 17

  • Incest

  • Sexual performance by a child

  • Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault

  • Indecency with a child

  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child

  • Aggravated kidnapping – with intent to commit a sex crime

  • Human trafficking involving prostitution

  • Continuous human or child trafficking

  • Child trafficking leading to or involving a sex crime

  • Compelling child prostitution

  • Possession or promotion of obscene material of children under the age of 18

  • Possession or promotion of child pornography

If you are facing any of these charges, the consequences can be extremely serious. Contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away to give your case its best chance of reaching a positive outcome.

What Is Exhibitionism?

Psychology Today reported that exhibitionistic disorder is sometimes deemed to be the impetus behind indecent exposure. Exhibitionistic disorder is the urge to expose one’s genitals to others, generally nonconsenting strangers. The disorder is an intense and ongoing arousal pattern that is attended by clinically significant (but often denied) distress or impairment for the offender.

However, those accused of indecent exposure do not need to qualify as having exhibitionistic behavior to face charges. In fact, said charges often relate to happenstance – when the person doing the exposing simply fails to consider all the involved circumstances carefully.

What Are Common Defenses to Indecent Exposure Charges in Texas?

If you have been arrested for or charged with indecent exposure in Texas, an experienced and detail-oriented Florence criminal defense attorney can help you identify the best defense strategy for your particular case. Some of the best defenses to indecent exposure charges include the following claims:

Lack of Exposure

When facing indecent exposure charges, the accused may argue that his or her genitals were not actually exposed. Without any photographs or videos, the prosecution may not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s private parts were exposed and that he or she intended to arouse others.

Lack of Intent

You cannot be convicted of indecent exposure if you lacked the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire. For example, if you accidentally took your swimsuit off while attempting to remove other outer clothing near a pool, you may not be charged with indecent exposure unless you exposed your genitals on purpose.

For more information about the lack of intent defense, read “Is It Criminal Intent or an Honest Mistake?

Mental Illness

A mental illness is a defense to indecent exposure charges in Texas. Those diagnosed with mental illnesses cannot face criminal charges because they lack the mental capacity to understand what they do.


A court may consider the defendant’s level of intoxication when deciding whether or not to charge him or her with indecent exposure. Intoxication can reduce a person’s ability to make rational decisions, and this fact is taken into consideration by the court.


Children are unlikely to have the intent to arouse someone by exposing their genitals or anus in public. For this reason, a small child may not be charged with indecent exposure for being naked in public.


Under Texas law, women have the right to breastfeed babies in public. A woman cannot be charged with indecent exposure if she exposes her breasts for the purpose of feeding a baby.

Your Future Is Too Important Not to Consult with an Experienced Florence Criminal Lawyer

If you are facing indecent exposure charges in Texas, it is advisable to schedule a case review with a knowledgeable attorney to determine the best defense strategy for you. Get a FREE consultation with our Florence criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to talk about your situation. Call (254) 781-4222 or contact us online to get a case review.

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