Know Your Indecent Exposure Rights

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    Know Your Indecent Exposure Rights was originally published on The Sexist on Oct. 27, 2009, at 2:18 pm
     

     

    Ever wondered exactly what you have to do with your penis to be charged with indecent exposure in Virginia? Need to know what sort of aperture you have to be looking through in order to be convicted of peeping? The Washington Post is here to help!

     

    Last week, 29-year-old Eric Williamson was charged with indecent exposure after “a woman and her 7-year-old son walked by his Springfield house and saw him, through the window, naked.” The woman claims she was walking her son to school one morning when Williamson presented his naked body to her not once, but twice—first “standing nude in the doorway, ” and then “through a large window that appeared to have no drapes.” She called the police.

    Williamson concedes that he was hanging out naked in his house, but denies that he intentionally exposed himself to the woman and the boy. The police response, Williams says, was extreme. “All of a sudden, I get woken up by police officers, and this guy has a Taser gun in my face,” he said. “I’m freaking out. Is this a movie? A horrible dream?” He called Fox News.

    The incident has courted international attention to Virginia’s indecent exposure and peeping laws. In a Washington Post online chat yesterday, Fairfax attorney Atchuthan Sriskandarajah administered a quick legal lesson on the peculiarities of Virginia’s sex statutes. Can a person indecently expose themselves from the privacy of their own home? By the same token, can passersby who happen to spy a naked person through the window be charged with peeping?

    According to Sriskandarajah, indecent exposure must require three elements:

    * Exposure. Displaying your private parts (breast-feeding doesn’t count).

    * Intent. The question that plagued the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson Superbowl flap.

    * Obscenity. The nudity must be accompanied by an obscene act to be considered “indecent.”

    In Virginia, a person can be convicted of indecent exposure even if the exposure occurred inside their own home—as long as they got naked, deliberately revealed that nudity to passersby, and, like, grabbed their genitals or something.

    Virginia’s “peeping” statute also contains three major elements:

    * Secrecy. No matter where you’re peeping, the peep must be “secret or furtive”—the naked person can’t be aware you’re looking at him or her.

    * Residential peeping. In order to prove you’ve peeped into someone’s home, you gotta peep through something. The statute lists windows, doors, apertures, holes, cracks, or any “other similar opening through which a person can see” as acceptable peepholes.

    * Commercial peeping. If the peeping is occurring outside a residence—like in a “restroom, dressing room, locker room, hotel room, motel room, tanning bed, tanning booth, [or] bedroom”—you still gotta peep through cracks and holes. But this time, you gotta be seeing something naked. According to the statute, that includes “the purpose of viewing any nonconsenting person who is totally nude, clad in undergarments, or in a state of undress exposing the genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast.”