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Meet Bob. Bob went out on the town wearing boxer shorts which in itself is entirely legal. A security guard pointed out to Bob that his shorts were unbuttoned so Bob buttoned them up. They later accused Bob of having his genitals hanging visibly out the front at one point which, even if truthful, he certainly was not aware of and did not intend.

If this was true, then what offences might Bob have been committing, and would they have required his self exposure to be intentional?

England and Wales specified, other jurisdictions always welcome.

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  • Related: law.stackexchange.com/questions/80908/…
    – PMF
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 13:01
  • 17
    Interesting things are going on in England and Wales, it seems. One wonders how many people will benefit from this information.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 20:28
  • 2
    @JimmyJames My gut tells me we probably don’t want to know the answer to that question. But I know at least I will be questioning the motives of anyone wearing boxers or pajama bottoms at Walmart from now on.
    – PC Luddite
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 22:23
  • Given the normal temperature in England and Wales I doubt many things would be "hanging" very far if you're walking around outdoors. Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 15:25

3 Answers 3

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Yes, and also there needs to be intent to cause alarm or distress. See section 66 Sexual Offences Act 2003:

(1)A person commits an offence if—

  • (a)he intentionally exposes his genitals, and

  • (b)he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.

(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

  • (a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;

  • (b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

For clarity, although the above legislation uses the masculine subject pronoun "he", this offence may be committed by a female also. See section 6(a) Interpretation Act 1978:

[...]

  • (a)words importing the masculine gender include the feminine;

[...]

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    In light of this I wonder whether it would be a violation to expose the genitals to another intentionally for some other reason but in a public place or otherwise without regard to the fact that others will incidentally see them and may be caused alarm or distress.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 12:38
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    @phoog There's more than one "public place". It's probably quite a difference whether you undress (intentionally or not) in a crowded mall or on the beach.
    – PMF
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 13:07
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    @phoog 1/2 Subject to PMF's comment, this sounds like it could be recklessness, which is a subjective test in E&W. I can't find anything for s.66 offences and the nearest I can find is at para 41 of R v G and another 2003 UKHL 50 Although it's for criminal damage, it's probably persuasive...
    – user35069
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 13:18
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    @phoog 2/2 ..."A person acts recklessly within the meaning of section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 with respect to - (i) a circumstance when he is aware of a risk that it exists or will exist; (ii) a result when he is aware of a risk that it will occur; and it is, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take the risk."
    – user35069
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 13:18
  • @phoog "Ahhhh help me pull this bug off my penis?" Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 23:41
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maaaaaybe if it was a public nuisance?

In Public Nuisance under StGB §183a does require either knowledge or intent, so pure knowledge is sufficient for this article. However, the required act is explicitly a sexual act - which just having your body exposed without your knowledge is usually not, and in fact, lack of intent and knowledge (that you are in public) could even make quite sexual stuff in public ok.

However, Exhibitionist Acts under StGB §183 is different: an intentional act of exhibiting your genitals is punishable under that paragraph. Knowledge is not mentioned, so only intentional acts are punishable. Unintentionality could in this case be a defense.

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  • I am not a native speaker and not a lawyer so I might be wrong, but it seems in the first reference grammatically that in the sentence the "knowledge" applies to the fact that it is causing "a nuisance" (Ärgernis). That seems to imply that it is sufficient that you know someone else who sees you considers it to be sexual in nature and that they consider it a nuisance. This doesn't affect the interpretation you gave directly, but may be relevant for alternative situations or interpretations. Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 11:53
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    @TimSeguine courts found that knowledge of being possibly in sight is enough, yes. Like, sex on the back balcony, when you have a neighboring house that is taller and also has balconoies? Knowledge is established.
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 11:56
  • Yeah, I just find it difficult to know what it is legal or not, since both of the things you cited seem to be predicated on the nebulous standard of the other party finding it objectionable. And the also fairly nebulous standard of what is considered "exhibitionist" or "sexual" seems to mostly be based on the a priori unknowable standard of the third party. For example it is pretty well established (as far as I know) that public urination is covered under the public nuisance statute, but how "peeing" qualifies as a "sexual act" even under a very broad interpretation is to me per se unclear. Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 12:06
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In the law states that if you expose yourself in places where you can be seen you are committing a felony (article 222-32 of the penal code). It can cost you up to one year of prison and up to 15000€.

Interestingly enough, this includes your own house. If you walk there naked and you are seen by someone from a public place (street for instance), you are guilty.

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    Wow, very surprising given stereotypical French attitudes toward sexuality and the like. I always perceived France as refreshingly mature on such things. Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 20:17
  • 1
    @JosephP.: as a French, raised in the 80's, so did I :) It is interesting to see how things changed over the years and how some things are just fine, and some other not (without any special logic behind)
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 20:22
  • When did your answer become accurate? I mean when did exposure become strict liability offence in France? Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 20:26
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    @JosephP.I am not a lawyer, but there was quite a lot of discussion about that in 2014 after a protest from the Femen. People were outraged that they were punished for showing their breasts (2000 € and one month of prison in suspension or whatever it is called when you do not go to prison if you do no commit the same felony). France is quite special - on the one hand we do not care much about nudity (when I was a kid 50% of women on the beach were topless and we had nudity on TV all the time) and then you have such a law. It is mostly intended against exhibitionism, though.
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 20:38
  • @JosephP. what? what does that even mean and how is it relevant?
    – RedSonja
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 8:49

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