Caught with Your Pants Down – Public Nudity and the Law

What is Public Nudity?

Streaking, flashing, or mooning – they may seem like harmless, perhaps even funny, activities, but they have all one thing in common – there are all cases of public nudity.

What exactly is public nudity? Often, it is the act of a person exposing certain parts of their body to the public, but it can also be the case where someone is naked in a public space where nudity is not allowed. Most states, such as Minnesota, have laws against unauthorized public nudity.

Keep in mind that public nudity is allowed in specific designated locations or areas. However, if you engage in public nudity outside of one of these designated areas, you could be charged with a crime, and possibly face jail time.

What Types of Actions are Prohibited in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, like other states, public nudity that disturbs or negatively affects others, such displaying genitals, is frowned upon. This situation is typically referred to as indecent exposure. Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers know that indecent exposure is against the law, and could cause significant repercussions, including being placed on the sex offender registry.

What actions does Minnesota law prohibit? The Minnesota Statutes Section 617.23 – Indecent Exposure prohibits the following activities:

  • Knowingly and lewdly exposing one’s private parts or other body parts that are typically hidden but are likely to cause distress when viewed by others, and includes acts such as flashing and even public urination.
  • Encouraging another person in such a way that they expose their private parts or body parts.
  • Engaging in any other public act that is indecent and/or lewd.

What are the Potential Consequences of Public Nudity?

The legal consequences of engaging in any sort of public nudity can vary widely, depending on factors such as the circumstances surrounding the indecent exposure, the age of the victims, as well as the number and severity of any prior sexual offense convictions. If you are caught with your pants down, so to speak, you could be charged with any of the following levels of criminal acts, starting from the least severe:

  • Misdemeanor: A standard consequence for this level of public nudity is a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 90 days.
  • Gross misdemeanor: While still a lesser crime, this level of public nudity involves either exposure to one or more children under the age of 16, or else the accused was previously convicted of indecent exposure, a rape, or sexual assault. In this situation, jail time is increased up to one year and the fine is raised to a maximum of $3,000.
  • Felony: If the accused had previously exposed themselves to a victim under the age of 16 after already having a similar indecent exposure conviction, then the potential punishments are much harsher. It could lead to 5 years in prison along with a maximum fine of $10,000. What’s more, the court could request the accused be assessed to determine if they should be placed in the sexual offender registry and require relevant treatment.

Are There Any Exceptions to Public Nudity?

According to Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers, not all instances of public nudity have negative legal ramifications necessarily. For example, officially designated nude beaches are intended for users who want to be in the buff, though the beach goers cannot engage in any lewd or offensive behavior.

Breast feeding mothers are also exempt from public nudity laws. They are allowed to nurse their children in any private or public location either with or without a covering, and they should be free from issues from the general public.

What Happens in Cases of Accidental Nudity?

Some people prefer to forego pajamas when they sleep, but upon waking, may walk into their living room while the blinds are raised and someone outside was able to see in. In another circumstance, a person may unintentionally walk into a mixed gender area of a health club before having yet put on a bathing suit. Both of these instances involve public nudity, yet both are unintended. Could the person be charged with a crime?

In cases like these, the police would need to review any available evidence and take statements from friends, family, and neighbors to determine if the situations were truly accidental, or merely wanting to appear accidental. If they were legitimately accidental, generally no charges would be laid.

A Last Thought

A harmless joke for a few friends could have the potential for serious trouble if seen by an unintended person. Having a criminal record, no matter how minor, can greatly impact your life, including your employment, your living location, and your social interactions. When in doubt, cover up, both to protect yourself and help maintain civility in a compassionate society.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Confidential informants may provide integral information to help build criminal investigations, but how reliable is that information when they are receiving payment for their services? To protect them, state law requires the identity of informants be kept confidential. For those facing criminal charges, however, this creates challenges in questioning the accuracy and validity of the information given at trial.
Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.