Accused of Indecent Exposure? Washington Laws & Penalties

indecent exposure washington state

The laws about indecent exposure Washington state has on the books are unforgiving. The penalties you could face are severe, so it’s understandable if you’re feeling a lot of stress at the moment. But there’s good news: By learning about Washington’s indecent exposure laws and penalties, you are arming yourself with the knowledge you need to fight this charge.

The experienced legal team at Will & Will gets questions about this charge all the time. Is indecent exposure a felony? Is indecent exposure a sex offender crime? We’re going to answer all of those questions and more in this post. Read on to learn more about indecent exposure in Washington state or reach out to our firm to get legal help now.

What Is Indecent Exposure?

To understand the penalties you’re facing, you need to first understand what “indecent exposure” is in the eyes of Washington state law. According to the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.88.010, indecent exposure in Washington state occurs when the following factors are true:

  • You intentionally and openly expose yourself or someone else in an “obscene” way.
  • You knew that the exposure was going to cause “reasonable affront or alarm.”

That’s it — the definition is fairly broad. That means a wide range of actions can be interpreted as indecent exposure. However, the law does clarify that expressing breast milk and breastfeeding in public are not examples of indecent exposure.

Indecent Exposure Laws

Despite the relatively simple definition of indecent exposure Washington state law uses, there is a lot of nuance surrounding this charge. The first things those accused of this crime usually want to know are whether the charge is a felony and whether they will have to register as a sex offender. Read on for the answers.

Is Indecent Exposure a Felony?

In general, indecent exposure is considered a misdemeanor in Washington state. However, a couple of factors can lead to a more severe charge. 

First, if you are accused of exposing yourself to someone younger than 14, you may be charged with a gross misdemeanor. While this is still less serious than a felony, a gross misdemeanor conviction can bring on severe criminal penalties.

The situation can become much worse if you have been previously convicted of indecent exposure, and/or if you have been previously convicted of any sex offense defined under Revised Code of Washington, Section 9.94A.030.  In either of these circumstances, you can be charged with a Class C felony. That means you could be labeled as a felon and face time more time in custody.

Is Indecent Exposure a Sex Offender Crime?

In Washington state, convictions for some sex offenses will mean you are forced to register as a sex offender. This is often one of the biggest concerns of those who have been charged with indecent exposure in Washington state. Why? Because being labeled as a sex offender can keep you from getting jobs, living in certain places, traveling out of the country, and even owning a computer.

Here’s the good news: Washington state law does not require those convicted of indecent exposure to register as sex offenders. However, keep in mind that having an indecent exposure conviction in Washington could potentially require sex offender registration in another state if you live or move outside of Washington.  You would need to consult with an attorney from that particular state to find out if you would need to register there.

Witnesses and Indecent Exposure Arrests

For you to be arrested for and charged with indecent exposure in Washington state, a witness must be willing to complain about your alleged actions. They will also likely have to testify against you in court. So, even if you actually did something that qualifies as indecent exposure, you may not be charged unless there’s a witness who is willing to come forward.

Indecent Exposure Penalties 

Because indecent exposure can be charged in a few different ways depending on the circumstances, the penalties vary. Here is the breakdown of the potential penalties:

  • Misdemeanor indecent exposure. The general charge for indecent exposure is a misdemeanor. Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.20.021 defines the maximum penalties for each type of charge. For misdemeanors, you could face as long as 90 days in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. 
  • Gross misdemeanor indecent exposure. If you’re accused of exposing yourself to someone younger than 14, you may be charged with a gross misdemeanor. In such a case, you could face as long as 364 days in county jail and up to $5,000 in fines if you’re convicted.
  • Class C felony indecent exposure. If you have been convicted of indecent exposure or another sex offense before, you might be charged with a Class C felony for indecent exposure. Class C felonies are punishable by as long as five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

The punishments for indecent exposure in Washington state can be severe. That’s why it’s so important to talk to an attorney who can help you build a strong legal defense.

Accused of Indecent Exposure? Contact Will & Will

When you’re accused of indecent exposure in Washington state, you’re stressed, anxious, and feeling alone. At Will & Will, we care about you and your future. We want to reduce your stress and anxiety and make sure you never feel alone in this fight. With thousands of cases successfully resolved over our 35+ years of combined experience, we’re confident we can do that for you. 

If you’re ready to stop worrying and start taking action to protect your future, reach out to us. Give Will & Will a call at 206-209-5585 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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