Ward Powell and Tanya Wheeler of Greenville, South Carolina have been arrested in Palm Beach on charges of lewd or lascivious behavior and indecent exposure in public. The two were arrested around 8:30 a.m. for what Powell claim’s was them not being able to control themselves after going skinny dipping. The couple allegedly started kissing in the water, and then moved to the sand to have sex. Fellow beachgoers complained to cops, who caught the naked couple in the act.
Under Florida law, exposure of sexual organs, or “indecent exposure,” is a serious criminal offense that has devastating long-term consequences for the accused. In addition to the potential penalties, a conviction will subject the accused to a permanent stigma and will permanently interfere with employment prospects, professional licensing, college applications, and other aspects of your daily life.
Lewd or lascivious behavior is different from most sex crimes in Jacksonville because the essential element of touching, found in most other sex crimes, is absent. Lewd or Lascivious behavior and indecent exposure can range in act, and may include such things as:
- The simulation of any act involving sexual activity
- Intentional masturbation;
- Intentional exposure of the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner
- Intentional commission of any other sexual act not involving actual direct physical or sexual contact with the public or a victim
To prove the crime of indecent exposure (exposure of sexual organs), the State must prove the beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- One intentionally exposed or exhibited one’s sexual organs or was naked;
- One did so in a public place, on the private premises of another, or so near the private premises of another as to be seen from those private premises;
- One intended the exposure or exhibition of one’s sexual organs or nakedness to be in a vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious manner;
- One’s exposure or exhibition or nakedness was in a vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious manner.
A tremendous defense that one has to indecent exposure is the definition of the location of where the crime was said to have taken place. If the location is not a “public place,” or a place intended to be frequented resorted to by the general public, then one cannot be found guilty. Many times, couples decide to go skinny-dipping in the backyard, and may get decide to have sex. As recent stories have shown, neighbors with kids on the second floor do not always approve of two adults having sex in front of their children’s eyes. Now, because of a child’s snooping eyes, the police are called and someone is accused of indecent exposure, possibly in front of a minor, which will aggravate the charge.
Indecent exposure charges can be bad enough, but when being accused of an act applicable to the statute and children happened to be part of “the public” one might possibly be charged with child abuse or sex crime charges of child abuse. Penalties for sex crimes involving children, even for indecent exposure, can be serious, including:
- Restricted work opportunities
- Jail or probation sentence of up to 15 years
- Permanent felony Record
- Counseling sessions, and
- Registration as a sex offender for life
Remember, if one’s exposure was unintentional or was not lewd in purpose, or if the exposure was not intended to be viewed by others, this will provide a complete defense to the charge. The offense must furthermore occur within a location specified in the statute, and must surpass mere nudity. In many situations, one’s experienced attorney might be able to negotiate down an indecent exposure charge to a less serious charge, saving the accused the time and grief of being possibly in prison and having a more egregious charge on one’s record.
One in a situation such as this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville sex crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights, defenses, and options are known and protected. One cannot fight this battle alone. With the help of an experienced attorney, one can be sure that this mistake will be whited out of one’s life and become a thing of the past.