In New York, the crime of Public Lewdness (Penal Law Section 245.00) is a class B misdemeanor. People arrested for this crime frequently receive Desk Appearance Tickets (especially if they have no criminal record), but are occasionally forced to spend a night in prison before their arraignment. Individuals arrested for Public Lewdness are also frequently charged with Exposure of a Person (Penal Law Section 245.01), a violation.
A person is guilty of Public Lewdness (Penal Law Section 245.00) when he "intentionally exposes the private or intimates parts of his body in a lewd manner or commits any other lewd act (a) in a public place, or (b) in private premises under circumstances in which he may readily be observed from either a public place or from other private premises, and with intent that he be so observed."
A person is guilty of Exposure of a Person (Penal Law Section 245.01) when he "appears in a public place in such a manner that the private or intimate parts of his body are unclothed or exposed." Moreover, "for purposes of this section, the private or intimate parts of a female person shall include that portion of the breast which is below the top of the areola. This section shall not apply to the breastfeeding of infants or to any person entertaining or performing in a play, exhibition, show or entertainment."
Obviously, the main difference between these charges is that Public Lewdness contains an intent element, meaning that the person has to expose himself intentionally, whereas Exposure of a Person requires no such showing by the prosecution.
These arrests usually stem from a police officer stumbling upon a person engaged in a sexual act with another person or with himself in a public place like an alley, a city park, a movie theater, a bathroom at a train station, or some other public location. These arrests also occasionally arise from people complaining that their neighbors are exhibitionists performing lewd acts in their apartment windows for others to see.
Jail is an uncommon result in these cases, but some prosecutors insist that the offender receive specialized behavioral treatment such as that offered by the Mustard Seed program, for example.
A conviction for this charge does not result in registration as a sex offender, a particularly onerous penalty for an individual that carries with it a variety of duties and hardships depending on the designated level of the sex offender. Many other sex offenses do result in registration, however.
If you or a loved one have been arrested or given a desk appearance ticket for Public Lewdness (Penal Law Section 235.00), you should strongly consider hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney with a background as a Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor.