Public Nudity, Indecent Exposure: 3 Potential Defenses

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on July 14, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Today (July 14) is National Nude Day, and everyone has different standards when it comes to how comfortable they are with public nudity. However, no matter what your personal preference may be, public nudity run afoul of your state's indecent exposure laws.

Though indecent exposure laws vary from state to state, they generally prohibit exposing a person's genitals in public, causing alarm or offense to others. In some states, intentional exposure of one's privates in public can also lead to a charge of public lewdness.

But when can public nudity fall short of being "indecent" or "lewd" in the eyes of the law? Here are three potential defenses to an indecent exposure or lewdness charge:

  1. There was no sexual motive. In many states, indecent exposure or public lewdness must be done for a sexual or other "lewd" purpose. This means that public nudity for other reasons, such as, say, comfort while driving, may not technically be considered indecent exposure -- although it's definitely a good way to get pulled over and charged for something else, like a DUI.
  2. It was free speech. If your public nudity is considered to be an act of "speech," then it may be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. Case in point: An Oregon man who protested airport-security procedures by stripping completely naked at the TSA checkpoint. Though he was arrested for indecent exposure, he was acquitted after a judge found that his naked protest was protected speech.
  3. You were on private property. Despite what many think, you can be arrested for being naked inside your own home if people outside can see you. But when you are nude within the boundaries of your home or other private property, it is less likely that a judge will find that you were intentionally exposing yourself to others, as opposed to doing so inadvertently. Indecent exposure is a crime that typically requires some form of criminal intent, which differentiates those who act purposefully from those who may have acted accidentally or otherwise unintentionally.

If you're facing charges related to public nudity on National Nude Day (or on any other day), an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help explain your legal options and any possible defenses.

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