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Public Indecency in Atlanta & Georgia

By: Larry Kohn, Award-Winning Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer

Public indecency is the intentional exposure of one’s private parts in public. Laws prohibiting this type of behavior (inappropriately exposing private parts of the human body to public view) exist throughout the country. However, each state has its own wording of statutory language for indecency laws, based on that jurisdiction’s perceived needs to prevent nudity from being viewed by people in public places.

For example, after a Georgia prisoner constantly liked to be naked inside the prison, was arrested on a public indecency charge, he successfully appealed that conviction. At the time, Georgia laws did not seem to cover the fact that penal institutions had no private locations. So, the indecent exposure laws were amended to add the subsection (d) below.

Public Indecency Definition in Georgia

A good starting point for trying to understand the origins of indecent exposure laws (and help us define public indecency) is to remember our history as Americans. The Puritans were reformists opposed to Roman Catholicism in 16th and 17th century England. These reformists were some of the first successful settlers in 1607 and 1620, respectively. Harsh punishment was certain to occur for anyone exposing their sexual organs in public, from pillory to flogging with a whip.

Plus, church-based groups escaping religious oppression (e.g., Quakers, Amish) left England, Germany, and many other nations to come to the New World to be able to worship freely. All of these were conservative religious groups that vilified any type of exhibitionism of “privates.”

This is what Wikipedia has to say about intentional public nudity and exposure of genitals and female breasts:

Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure in public or in view of the general public by a person of a portion or portions of their body in circumstances where the exposure is contrary to local moral or other standards of appropriate behavior. The term indecent exposure is a legal expression. Social and community attitudes to the exposing of various body parts and laws covering what is referred to as indecent exposure vary significantly in different countries. It ranges from outright prohibition to prohibition of exposure of certain body parts, such as the genital area, buttocks, or breasts.

What Are the 7 Most Common Ways Georgia Public Indecency Laws Are Broken?

A quick review of our prior criminal case files indicates that several patterns for indecent exposure charges exist. The most common denominator is that alcohol consumption, usually to excess, has led to the police encounter in some way. In other cases, excessive drug use can dull the person so severely that the drugged person is unaware of his or her nudity.

  1. Urinating in public. Drinking alcohol creates the need to “relieve yourself.” Police are cruising the streets and drive up to people urinating next to a building or in a shopping center parking lot, wooded area, or just standing next to a public street.
  2. Having sex (oral sex, vaginal sex) in public. Georgia case law has ruled that since windows of a vehicle are clear, and the PUBLIC can see this act happening, it is a crime.
  3. Engaging in heavy petting or fondling in public, such as having a woman’s breast exposed or a penis being openly fondled in a place visible to people passing by or within an obvious sight line.
  4. Protesters trying to make a political point about gender disparity in our laws, by walking or riding bikes or convertible cars in public to flaunt the inequity of women being arrested for being bare-chested but men are free to do the same things and not be arrested. See below and ask yourself, WHO wants to see THIS?
  5. Public indecency laws Georgia

    As a student in Athens GA in the early 1970s, “streaking” was a REAL thing, as a means of protest and expression in those political times, before the Vietnam War ended.

    A couple of decades ago, having sex in phone booths was prevalent, and was something teens and young adults would do “on a dare.”

  6. Women flashing their breasts, based on some celebration (St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras party) in exchange for beads or other trinkets.
  7. Intentionally torturing a neighbor by getting inside your home, and then stripping naked and walking past a large plate-glass window so that your hated neighbor must gaze upon your nude body.

    The Language of the Georgia Law on Public Indecency

Georgia criminal law under O.C.G.A. Section 16-6-8 states that a person commits the offense of public indecency when he or she performs any of the following four (4) actions in public, as defined by Georgia law, within the statute.

O.C.G.A. Code Section 16-6-8 – Public Indecency

Public indecency

  1. A person commits the offense of public indecency when he or she performs any of the following acts in a public place:
    1. An act of sexual intercourse;
    2. A lewd exposure of the sexual organs;
    3. A lewd appearance in a state of partial or complete nudity; or
    4. A lewd caress or indecent fondling of the body of another person.
  2. A person convicted of the offense of public indecency as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be punished as for a misdemeanor except as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section.
  3. Upon a third or subsequent conviction for public indecency for the violation of paragraph (2), (3), or (4) of subsection (a) of this Code section, a person shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
  4. For the purposes of this Code section only, “public place” shall include jails and penal and correctional institutions of the state and its political subdivisions.
  5. This Code section shall be cumulative to and shall not prohibit the enactment of any other general and local laws, rules, and regulations of state and local authorities or agencies and local ordinances.
Public Indecency Penalty in Georgia

Punishment for public indecency in Georgia is not severe in first and second offenses, especially if the situation does not involve having sex in public. But, the third offense under O.C.G.A. 16-6-8 is a felony, punishable by a 1 to 5-year term of imprisonment.

Defenses to Public Indecency

Accidental exposure: A water skier tries to come out of the lake upright on the skis, but his suit catches a lot of water, and the boat speed and water pressure strip off the bathing suit.

Mistaken Identity: Because most of our cases happen at night when a group of people are standing together, and a stream of urine is obviously being propelled, trying to identify which person was the one urinating can be a challenge unless police coerce the others into identifying the culprit. A famous Athens GA case tried by David Montgomery illustrates this challenge. David won by asking the woman to describe the penis she saw, which was circumcised, and then had his client stand up in front of the jury to show his uncircumcised penis.

The location was private: Every case turns on its facts, but (in a few cases) the issue gets a bit clouded when a person has no completely secure spot to disrobe and might unexpectedly be seen by another person.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Atlanta to Fight an Indecent Exposure Case

First, be aware that Georgia has no public DECENCY laws. These religion-based statutes DO have a purpose, but many situations for which arrests are made are defensible if the right criminal lawyer who has “been there and done that” handles your indecency case.

To obtain your highest likelihood of having any Georgia indecency charge reduced, diverted, or conditionally discharged (or perhaps dismissed) call an experienced criminal attorney near me. Larry Kohn is a top criminal defense lawyer in metro Atlanta with top lawyer ratings and multiple legal industry recognitions.

Obtain a FREE consultation on cases arising at ANY city or county court in Georgia, call our office number: (404) 567-5515. Plus, Larry takes calls on his cell, when he is not in court or asleep: 404-538-3373. Call our law office 24-7, since our criminal defense law firm understands what is at stake in handling these cases.

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Mr. Larry Kohn could not have been more helpful. I sent him a message for a free consultation, and unfortunately my case had to be handled in another state. But he completely walked me through everything I needed to do, and even offered to assist the lawyer I did find in Virginia should they need help with my case. Jamie V.
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