Indecent Exposure – Texas Penal Code § 21.08

Texas Criminal Law

The Indecent Exposure crime in the state of Texas gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you exposed your private parts to someone who would be offended by this act. Learn more detailed information about the Indecent Exposure offense below.

Indecent Exposure is one of the least severe sex crimes in Texas. State prosecuting lawyers could charge this offense in cases where someone was urinating in public, masturbating in public or went streaking during a football game. However, as discussed in more detail below, the state might have difficulty proving the necessary intent under some of these circumstances.

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Indecent Exposure also refers to a subset of the Disorderly Conduct charge that penalizes certain lewd behaviors as a Class C misdemeanor. The Disorderly Conduct subset of Indecent Exposure does not require the state’s attorneys to prove that the exposure was for sexual gratification.

In 2023, as explained in more detail below, the Texas legislature created a felony enhancement to this offense when it is committed by a person who is civilly committed as a “sexually violent predator.”

Indecent Exposure is classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 5 “Offenses Against the Person,” Chapter 21 “Sexual Offenses.” Indecent Exposure is similar to the Public Lewdness offense, but Indecent Exposure does not require any act of intercourse.

What is the current Texas law about Indecent Exposure?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Indecent Exposure in Penal Code Section §21.08 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, and he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his act.

One key element of this offense is the intent required. You must have the intent to “arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” The state’s attorneys have to prove you had this specific intent. If they can convince a jury that you had this intent, then this element has been met. “Any person” means that it does not have to be you. They can try to prove that you intended to arouse someone else. Note also that this other person does not even have to be present at the time the exposure had taken place.

Another key element of this offense is that you have to be “reckless” about whether someone else is present. If you had good reason to believe you were in private, then the state’s lawyers may not be able to meet this element. For instance, it would be challenging for the state’s attorneys to prove you were reckless as to whether someone else could observe you if you were in a closed room that happened to be monitored by a secret video camera.

How can I be charged with Indecent Exposure?

You can be charged with Indecent Exposure if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 21.08(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the punishment for Indecent Exposure?

A conviction for Indecent Exposure is punished by default as a Class B misdemeanor,[2] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors

However, effective September 1, 2023, the state may seek to penalize the offense as a felony of the third degree by proving that the accused person is civilly committed as a sexually violent predator under Chapter 841, Health and Safety Code, at the time of the offense.[3]

Do convictions for Indecent Exposure require restration as a sex offender?

Indecent Exposure is not a registrable offense unless you have another prior conviction for Indecent Exposure.[4]

^1. Texas Penal Code §21.08^2. Texas Penal Code §21.08(b)^3. SB 1179, 88th Texas Legislature (RS), Section 3^4. Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.001(5)(F)

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