The idea of someone running around flashing people can seem ridiculous and silly, but police and medical authorities say it’s no joke. Research on sexual deviance reveals that these initial and seemingly harmless acts can lead to worse crimes.
It is thought that the two most common payoffs for offenders are a) simply shock value or b) some unfounded fantasy that when the victim sees the offender exposed, they will suddenly become erotically attracted to him or her. When it doesn’t happen the way they planned, things can escalate.
For these reasons, Colorado law enforcement takes these charges very seriously.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at exactly what “flashing” is, how the Colorado legal system views crimes of public indecency and indecent exposure, and what penalties you stand to face if convicted.
How Do the Colorado Statutes Define “Flashing”?
Flashing is legally defined as the momentary display of a woman’s breasts or anyone’s – man or woman’s – bare genitalia. It is considered to be one of several types of behavior classified as exhibitionism, which is defined as an act of exposing those parts of one’s body that are not normally seen in a public context.
Now, whether the act of exposure is “indecent” depends on what the standard of appropriate behavior (moral or otherwise) is among the social community in which the act took place. In most Colorado cases, indecent exposure pertains to exposing oneself for the sexual gratification of the offender or to entice a shock or sexual response in the onlooker.
It is important to note that “flashing” is not always an act of indecent exposure. In these cases, it is typically classified as public indecency.
Public Indecency Is Not Indecent Exposure in Colorado
Due to the very similar legal wording of these separate offenses, there is often confusion around whether an act is considered one or the other – public indecency or indecent exposure. Law enforcement must take care in issuing charges for the correct crime, as one has more serious consequences than the other.
Specifically, public indecency is not usually a sex offense crime. Indecent exposure always is.
The difference between the two is slight, and really only limited to intent. When someone behaves in a sexual manner in a public place, and in full view of anyone in the vicinity, it is considered public indecency.
Think of those teenagers in love for the first time, passionately making out whenever and wherever they can – or worse. Not something anyone necessarily wants to see, but also probably not a crime worthy of the court’s time.
However, if either of the pair suddenly wants to become an exhibitionist for shock value and purposely exposes his or her genitals specifically to alarm or upset the other person or passersby, they’re looking at a year and a half in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
That being said, if one of our Colorado lovebirds suddenly – accidentally or otherwise – flashes by-standers, it’s certainly not a felony… at least not the first time it happens.
Colorado Indecent Exposure Law
Here’s what Colorado indecent exposure laws say: public nudity and indecently exposing oneself in a sexual manner to alarm or offend others are prohibited. Upon conviction of these crimes, a person will face fines, jail time, and even a requirement to register in the state’s sex offender registry.
Public Indecency is generally charged as a Class 1 Petty Offense punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment and up to $500 in fines. Charges may be elevated to a Class 1 Misdemeanor if committed with a prior conviction related to exposing oneself. This charge carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 maximum fine.
Indecent Exposure is usually considered a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which can result in up to a year and a half imprisonment, and again, $5,000 in fines.
Here’s the truly scary part, though. If you are convicted of either crime, you will be required to register as a sex offender. Once you’ve been added to that list, getting your name removed from the registry and moving on with your life could be a tougher process than you might think. The one saving grace of this is that persons convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses aren’t posted on the publicly visible list, but registration can still seriously affect where you can work and live.
Furthermore, when an offender has two or more prior convictions of crimes related to indecent exposure, they are considered a repeat offender, and charges are automatically upgraded to a Class 6 Felony. This is punishable by jail time, mandatory parole, and up to $100,000 in fines.
So, yes, it is quite possible for a seemingly minor act committed in no more than the time it takes to look away to transform you into a convicted felon and registered sex offender on parole and a hundred thousand dollars in debt. We recommend thinking twice, and if you are charged, fighting back with everything you’ve got.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.