Is Relieving Yourself Indecent Exposure?

by Richard Finci on November 12, 2012

  • Sharebar

(Guest post regarding indecent exposure under US criminal law) Going to the bathroom is a natural bodily function. Problem is, you can only “hold it” for so long before the pain and discomfort becomes unbearable.

So, what happens when you’re out in public, with no restroom to be found? Many of us have been on a road trip only to find the rest area closed or too far away. We find a small road in the middle of nowhere, go behind a tree, and use the restroom there. But could relieving yourself, an innocent and sometimes unavoidable act, be considered indecent exposure?

The answer is “yes”.

Exposing yourself is a serious crime

This is the primary reason behind indecent exposure laws. Every year, there are cases of individuals (most commonly men) who pull down their pants and expose themselves. They may expose themselves to adults as a cheap thrill, or to children because they are mentally disturbed. The latter is typically treated much more seriously, as it should be. The bottom line is, exposing yourself is a sex crime, and in some cases you could be found guilty of either a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted, you may have to register as a sex offender for your entire life, in addition to other punishments.

Relieving yourself is often a judgment call

Technically, relieving yourself could be considered indecent exposure, since you might inadvertently expose yourself to others. Although this might sound silly if you’re on the side of the road or in the woods, it is always possible that someone driving or walking by might catch a glimpse. So, yes, relieving yourself constitutes indecent exposure. Depending on the situation, it could be considered a misdemeanor, although in all likelihood, you would simply get a ticket for public urination, which is usually an infraction.

That being said, the chances of you being cited are rather low. We’re all human. We have certain needs. Law enforcement will often “take pity” on someone who has an urgent need to relieve themselves. Of course, every situation is different, and if there is evidence that leads the officer to believe that it was more than simply needing to relieve yourself, that’s when you could be cited, and possibly arrested, for indecent exposure.

How to avoid indecent exposure charges

For the most part, a law enforcement officer doesn’t want to arrest you, or even give you a ticket, for relieving yourself in public. However, he or she will weigh a few facts when making a judgement call, so keep a few important things in mind:

  • Are you far away from the public? — Even if you’re on the side of the road, an officer passing by might pull over and give you a hard time. Get behind a tree or, if possible, drive down a side road first. If you urinate in a less secluded place, such as an alley, however, you can expect a punishment of some kind if you’re caught, especially since indecent exposure might be easier to prove.
  • Are you covering yourself? — You want to avoid exposure at all costs. Using a car door or a jacket to shield yourself with a jacket will work well for the ladies, but guys might have to find something bigger. Just make sure you’re turned away from anyone who might be passing by.
  • Did you clean up afterwards? — One of the problems people have with public urination, even in secluded areas, is that people don’t clean up after themselves. Covering it up should suffice, but removal might be necessary. If you clean up after your dog, there’s no reason not to clean up after yourself.

If in case you have been charged with Indecent Exposure, be sure to seek council with a trusted criminal defense attorney to discuss the defense process going forward.

Richard Finci

Richard Finci

Richard Finci is a partner at the law firm of Houlon, Berman, Bergman, Finci, Levenstein & Skok and is one of the best criminal and traffic lawyers in the DC metro area. A former President of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney's Association, Richard acted as Chair at the 2007 Criminal Law Section Council and has presented seminars on criminal defense at several venues. A leader in his field, Richard likes to stay active in the local law and educational communities.
Richard Finci

Latest posts by Richard Finci (see all)

No related posts.

Previous post:

Next post: