Illinois public indecency laws explained

by Sami Azhari on November 8, 2011

Illinois Public Indecency

The law in the state of Illinois says that is a criminal offense to expose oneself in public. The crime is called public indecency. The penalties for this offense can include up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2500.

But most importantly, the crime of public indecency is classified as a sex offense. This means that the defendant may have to register as sex offender if found guilty.

Public indecency is found in the criminal code at 720 ILCS 5/11-9. The statute provides that the crime of public indecency applies people who are 17 years old and above. Any person who is 16 years old or younger cannot be prosecuted for public indecency. However, the courts have allowed the State to prosecute minors for disorderly conduct (720 ILCS 5/26-1) based on the same type of behavior for which an adult would be charged with public indecency.

A person who is 17 years of age or older will be charged with public indecency under either of the following circumstances:

  • He or she forms an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct in public.
  • He or she exposes the body in a lewd manner with intent to arouse or to satisfy sexual desire in a public.

And so, a person does not have to be naked in public to be charged with public indecency. In fact, he or she can be fully clothed and still be guilty. Basically, public indecency occurs in two ways: nudity in public with sexual intent or engaging in a sex act (clothed or unclothed) in public.

In every prosecution for public indecency, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the conduct occurred in a public place. A public place is defined as any place where the conduct may reasonably be expected to be viewed by others.

When state legislators drafted the statute that makes it a crime to expose oneself, they made an exemption. Breast feeding an infant is not public indecency. However, it remains debatable whether breast feeding a young child in public would constitute public indecency.

In any event, an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct in public constitutes public indecency. These terms are defined by 720 ILCS 5/12-12. Sexual conduct includes touching or fondling on top of clothing. Sexual penetration can also include any touching between the sex organs and an object or the mouth.

Public indecency is a Class A misdemeanor offense. If convicted, the defendant can be sentenced to jail. However, probably the more likely outcome would be a sex offender evaluation and treatment through the probation department.

Although public indecency may seem like a minor offense, the consequences can be very serious. Generally, any offense that is sexual in nature will draw attention from prosecutors and judges. These offenses are reported by the media and they can be very politically charged.

The court may be inclined to order the defendant to undergo a sex offender evaluation and treatment, regardless of whether this type of sentence is appropriate. If the offender cannot complete the sex offender evaluation and the recommended treatment, then the court can re-sentence him to jail.

A conviction for the offense of public indecency cannot be expunged or sealed. It would be a criminal record lasting permanently.

If the defendant has two prior offenses of public indecency, the third offense is a Class 4 felony. In these cases, the potential penalties include 1 to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

In my opinion, every charge that is sexual in nature should be fought in court. I would not recommend a plea of guilty to this offense. The damage caused by record for a sex offense is immeasurable. Therefore, the defendant should be careful and choose an attorney who is willing to go to trial.

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