In Michigan, the way indecent exposure and aggravated indecent exposure cases go through the court system has changed over time.
There was a time when an indecent exposure charge brought to mind a guy getting caught “peeing behind a dumpster.”
Not anymore, though.
In fact, a number of years ago, the legislature decided to create the enhanced offense of aggravated indecent exposure that carries more serious potential penalties and added them as section “b” to the law reprinted below:
750.335a Indecent exposure; violation; penalty; mother's breastfeeding or expressing milk exempt.
(1) A person shall not knowingly make any open or indecent exposure of his or her person or of the person of another.
(2) A person who violates subsection (1) is guilty of a crime, as follows:
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) or (c), the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.
(b) If the person was fondling his or her genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or, if the person is female, breasts, while violating subsection (1), the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.
(c) If the person was at the time of the violation a sexually delinquent person, the violation is punishable by imprisonment for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which is 1 day and the maximum of which is life.
(3) A mother's breastfeeding of a child or expressing breast milk does not constitute indecent or obscene conduct under subsection (1) regardless of whether or not her areola or nipple is visible during or incidental to the breastfeeding or expressing of breast milk.
Just as the law has evolved, so has the court system, as well. Judges have gone from having essentially 1 resource - jail - to having an entire range of alternatives and options to address whatever underlying issues may have given rise or contributed to a person being charged with an IE crime.
In a wider context, this evolution can be seen in the growth of specialty courts (adult treatment, drug and sobriety courts, and even veteran’s courts) and rehabilitative choices that include thing like anger management and just about every kind of specialized counseling one could imagine.
Here’s why that matters: In the world of IE cases, there is always an underlying concern about sexual deviancy and the threat of what’s called “progression.”
Here is an easy way to understand this:
The overwhelming majority of people who commit either an indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure offense are not sexual deviants and aren’t any kind of risk to continue to offend and progress to committing more serious and/or predatory sex crimes.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of our IE clients are nice guys who forgot how much they have to lose, did something stupid, and feel horrible about it.
However, it is also true that a significant percentage of serious sex criminals started out small, and progressed from less serious offenses, like indecent exposure, into more dangerous and severe crimes, including things like secretly filming women in bathrooms and changing rooms, all the way to outright sexual assaults.
It’s at this point, most people will want to jump up and say, “MAYBE SO, BUT NOT ME!”
And while that may be true for most, the question becomes, how is the court supposed to know that?
The simple answer is that it tries to find out through psychological screening.
This is where my team and I come in, because you can either be carried by the current and “go with the flow,” hoping that the court sends you to some counselor who really knows what they’re doing, or you can be proactive, and take advantage of the best resources to make sure that you have more than enough proof to show that you’re NOT at risk to progress or become a predator, and that your IE incident really is a true “one and done” event.
We do that by using a small circle of highly experienced professional counselors who specialize in criminal sexual behavior.
For as well meaning as any other counselor may be, unless he or she regularly assesses and treats people with sexual deviances that ultimately manifest in sex crimes, then he or she won’t have the experience and depth of perspective to know who is NOT at risk to progress from an IE incident to a sexual predator.
Our firm uses specialists with thousands of case hours who can, as definitively as possible, make clear that a person’s IE incident is not the symptom of some potentially progressive underlying pathology.
We need to make crystal clear that you’re not a risk to reoffend, or otherwise become a sexual predator.
This is huge, because given that every Judge, in every court, will always (and understandably) take a “better safe than sorry” approach, the big risk for anyone facing an indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure charge isn’t going to jail - it’s getting hammered with extensive, long-term and expensive counseling.
To be clear, the risk of jail for a 1st time IE offender whose case is properly handled is generally almost non-existent.
Being kept out of jail is easy (at least for us), but avoiding burdensome and ongoing (some might say “never-ending”) counseling requires formulating and following an intelligent, proactive strategy.
Most Judges are worried about making sure a person won’t progress into more serious offenses, and want to employ whatever rehabilitative and remedial measures are best to do that.
Jail isn’t particularly good for that.
In other words, even though most people facing an IE charge are thinking about jail (and, in particular, thinking about avoiding it), most Judges aren’t so focused on incarceration.
Instead, they’re trying to figure out how to “fix” a person so he won’t do it again, and if that means sending someone to counseling that wasn't needed, or more of it than was needed, then so be it.
Remember, better safe than sorry…
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s generally a waste of time and effort trying to avoid a punishment (jail) that almost certainly won’t be handed out in the first place. Instead, we need to make sure our client doesn’t get forced into some kind of grueling and oppressive treatment he doesn’t need, and will come to dread.
This requires a lot of interaction between the lawyer, the client, and the specialized counselor and a plan, based on experience, to minimize all the potential legal penalties and negative consequences.
Sex Offender Registration
One of the most common questions
we answer is whether or not a person facing an indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure charge is going to have to register as a sex offender.
Simple indecent exposure is NOT a registrable offense. In other words, if your only charge is simple indecent exposure, then you are not at risk.
Aggravated indecent exposure is not a registrable offense, either, but there is a key exception if a victim (in IE cases, this would be someone who saw the exposure) is a minor. In that circumstance, registration is required.
There is also a registration requirement if, at the time of his or her IE incident, the person who committed it was a sexually delinquent person. Being a “sexually delinquent person” typically requires having previous IE or sex crime convictions.
Put another way, anyone facing a simple indecent exposure charge, or an aggravated indecent exposure charge that doesn’t involve a victim who is a minor, and who has no prior IE or sex crime convictions is generally clear.
The goal for anyone dealing with an IE charge is to get out of it with the fewest legal penalties and negative consequences possible. No matter how you cut it, success in an IE case is best defined by what does NOT happen to you.
If you are facing an indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure charge, you need the best legal help you can find, and a law firm that is the right fit for you. Here, you need to be a sharp consumer and explore your options.
Call my team and I, and then call around. The best thing you can do if you find yourself in this situation is to compare lawyers.
We encourage you to do that.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. We understand you feel embarrassed, but we have handled so many IE cases that we know how to ease your fears and speak to you without judgment. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.