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Indiana's indecent exposure laws: An overview

Jim Morrison of The Doors was arrested in 1970 for indecent public exposure during a 1969 concert. At the trial, he was sentenced to six months in prison in addition to fines for being guilty of indecent exposure and open profanity. Morrison remained outside prison on a bond as he appealed the ruling. However, he died before the appeal could reach its verdict. Years later, in 2010, Morrison was granted a posthumous pardon by the court.

Fifty years since that famous incident, indecent exposure is still a crime in Indiana and the rest of the country. According to Article 45 Chapter 4 of Indiana Code Title 35, three types of indecent exposures are considered offensive in the state: public indecency, indecent exposure and public nudity.

Grounds for public indecency charges in Indiana include participation in a sexual activity; appearing nude and exposing genitals in a public space. Also, appearing nude in front of a child under the age of 16 is an offense. For a first-time offense, these are considered Class A misdemeanors. For repeat offenders, whether the earlier conviction was in Indiana or in another state, it is a Level 6 felony.

If someone is found to have engaged in these activities outside a public space but with the intent of being seen by the public, the offense is called indecent exposure and it is a Class A misdemeanor.

In the case of public nudity, an offender must have intentionally appeared in public with private parts exposed. Usually, public nudity is a Class C misdemeanor but if the intention was to be seen by another person, it is a Class B misdemeanor. The offense escalates to Class A misdemeanor if the exposure happens in a school, a park or an Indiana Department of Natural Resources property. If a defendant has a prior conviction on similar charges in Indiana or another state, the offense is a Level 6 felony.

Penalties for all of these indecent exposure offenses include a prison sentence in addition to fines. For example, a Class C misdemeanor attracts a jail sentence of 60 days and a fine of up to $500; and a Level 6 felony attracts a jail sentence of six to 30 months and a fine of up to $10,000. In view of such harsh punishments, it may be wise for an accused to seek legal help at the earliest possible opportunity.

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