Definition of Indecent Exposure in California

Penal Code section 314, subdivision (1) makes it a crime for a person "who willfully and lewdly . . . exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby. . . ." (Pen. Code, 314, subd. (1).) "Generally, a conviction for indecent exposure requires proof of two elements: '(1) the defendant must willfully and lewdly expose the private parts of his person; and (2) such exposure must be committed in a public place or in a place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby.' " (People v. Carbajal (2003) 114 Cal.App.4th 978, 982 (Carbajal), quoting People v. Swearington (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 935, 943.) In Carbajal, a Court of Appeal addressed the question of whether a conviction for indecent exposure was valid, where there was no evidence that anyone saw the defendant's naked genitals. (Carbajal, supra, 114 Cal.App.4th at 980.) After reviewing the common law and cases from other jurisdictions, the Court of Appeal concluded: "A conviction for indecent exposure under Penal Code section 314, subdivision 1 requires evidence that a defendant actually exposed his or her genitals in the presence of another person, but there is no concomitant requirement that such person actually must have seen the defendant's genitals. Thus, we will uphold defendant's conviction for indecent exposure in the absence of evidence of any direct visual observation of his genitals so long as there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to show that actual exposure occurred." (Id. at p. 986.) The Court of Appeal then addressed whether there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the indecent exposure conviction. A restaurant employee had observed the defendant on two different occasions apparently masturbating at a table. The first time, "defendant placed his fist inside his shorts and moved his hand up and down for about 5 to 10 minutes." (Carbajal, supra, 114 Cal.App.4th at p. 981.) A few weeks later, the defendant engaged in similar conduct, except that he also "ejaculated onto the floor beneath the table. The area had been clean before defendant sat there. Prior to leaving the restaurant, defendant wiped his hand off with a napkin and threw a newspaper on top of the puddle of semen. The police officers who later took a report of the incident did not collect a sample of the semen." (Ibid.) The employee did not see the defendant's penis on either occasion. (Carbajal, supra, 114 Cal.App.4th at p. 981.) She also was not sure whether "defendant had his fist on his penis during the first incident, but the second time she was sure that he did. On that occasion, defendant wore a t-shirt that fell below his crotch and a pair of loose-fitting, knee-length shorts. Although her view of defendant's genitals was partially obscured by chairs and by his clothing, she could tell he had taken his penis out of his shorts while holding it in his fist because she could see the skin of his fist 'when he made strong movements . . . .' She recognized the white substance deposited on the floor underneath the table as semen. Another restaurant employee also saw defendant moving his fist up and down in his crotch area during the second incident, but she could not tell if his hand was inside or outside of his shorts." (Ibid.) The Court of Appeal found sufficient circumstantial evidence that the defendant "actually exposed his naked genitals." (Carbajal, supra, 114 Cal.App.4th at p. 987.) The court explained that the evidence included "Villa Bueno's testimony regarding defendant's hand movements, which were open to view, and her observations about the semen deposited beneath the table. Although neither she nor her coworker actually saw defendant's genitals, Villa Bueno testified that she saw the bare skin of his fist as it was wrapped around what appeared to be his penis while he moved it up and down in his crotch area. It is reasonable to conclude that defendant exposed his penis by taking it out of his shorts and holding it in his fist as he masturbated in the restaurant. Had the penis not been exposed, arguably the semen would have been deposited on defendant's clothing rather than on the floor when he ejaculated. Testimony that the substance was semen and not something else was an issue of fact for the jury's determination." (Ibid.)