Public Indecency in Colorado—What’s at Stake
In Colorado, public indecency is a petty offense sex crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail, but it is not necessarily a crime that requires the person to register as a sex offender. Still, there is great potential for embarrassment, fines, probation and jail. Under some circumstances it becomes a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 2 years in jail and registration as a sex offender. In all circumstances, a criminal lawyer can defend your rights, evaluate your options, and either negotiate a favorable plea bargain or fight for you at trial.
Public indecency is committed when a person performs certain acts in a public place (or in a place where the public is likely to see):
1) Sexual intercourse
2) Lewd exposure of the body with the intent to arouse or satisfy a sexual desire
3) Lewd fondling or caress
4) Knowing exposure of genitals to the view of another under circumstances in which such conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm.
For exact language see Colorado Revised Statutes 18-7-301.
Defense of Public Indecency Charges
Public indecency is tougher to prove than it seems, largely because the law is vague and overreaching. To be blunt, not all intimacy is intercourse, and lewdness is in the eye of the beholder. A good criminal lawyer will start your defense by attacking the vagueness of the statute itself. This can sometimes result in a negotiated dismissal of your case, or in a motions victory that cripples the prosecutor’s case.
It can also be tough to prove when it is charged aggressively by police and prosecutors. However unseemly, not every act of public urination is an act of public indecency, but the police are not always so discerning. Nor should sexual intercourse in your own home be a crime, simply because a window was wide open. There are a lot of marginal situations where the police or prosecutor may overreach and charge public indecency. In those cases, a criminal lawyer should be focused on dismissal or acquittal at trial.
In all cases, a criminal lawyer with good trial experience will be able to cast doubt on what the eyewitnesses really saw. A good cross-examination of a witness can reveal prejudices, dishonesty, and failures of observation and memory. Often, there are alternate explanations for what the witnesses thought they saw. A trial lawyer will explore those possibilities and defend you on all fronts.
In some cases where the prosecutor’s evidence is very strong, a trial may not be a good option. But a criminal lawyer will still defend your rights, investigate the case, and look for opportunities to suppress evidence or get the case dismissed. A criminal lawyer will also help put the incident in context for the prosecutor and judge, in order to obtain a fair and favorable plea bargain for you.
Matthew Hand is an experienced Denver criminal lawyer, who has gone to trial on sex crimes such as public indecency and indecent exposure.