Washington Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

Overview of Washington Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

While nonconsensual sexual acts are always a crime, states prohibit certain types of consensual sexual acts as well. While many states once banned sodomy, particularly same-sex sodomy, those laws have been found unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. In Washington, prohibited consensual sexual activity laws are fairly limited and only prohibit indecent exposure.

While Washington statutes don't specifically address "lewdness," a typical charge in other states for public sexual acts, some municipalities in the state do in fact have lewdness ordinances. For example, Port Orchard and Everett both have ordinances making "lewd conduct" a crime.

What is Considered Indecent Exposure in Washington State?

It is considered indecent exposure in Washington to intentionally "make any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another" if that conduct is likely to alarm or offend others. If indecent exposure is accompanied by an effort to cause apprehension in another or results in actual, unwanted touching, it can escalate to a sexual assault charge. Exposing one's breasts for the purpose of breastfeeding is not considered a crime.

So what does it mean to make an "open and obscene exposure of [one's] person?" Typically, this is a reference to the genitals.

Under Washington law, indecent exposure is charged as a misdemeanor. The charge becomes a gross misdemeanor if, on the first offense, the offender exposes himself to someone under the age of 14. Anyone previously convicted of indecent exposure or a sex crime is charged with a class C felony for the offense.

Learn more about Washington's prohibited consensual sexual activity laws below, with links to related articles and resources. See FindLaw's Sex Crimes section for related information.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to -
Penalty for Sodomy -
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders 70.24.340 All persons convicted of sexual offense under 9A.44, offenses relating to prostitution under 9A.88 or drug offenses using hypodermic needles under 69.50 shall be HIV tested as soon as possible after sentencing
Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts 9A.88.010 Indecent exposure: misdemeanor

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Washington criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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