Wisconsin Indecent Exposure Laws

In Wisconsin, it's illegal to participate in sexual activity and "lewd" behavior in public, commonly referred to as indecent exposure. The state's goals in having these sexual morality laws are to protect children from exposure to these sexual activities and to prevent unwilling adults from seeing them while in public.

The main provision of Wisconsin's indecent exposure laws are outlined below.

Code Section

Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 944: Crimes Against Sexual Morality

What Is Prohibited?

Four main public offensive and sexual behaviors are prohibited in Wisconsin:

  • Public Fornication - Having sexual intercourse in public (meaning where the person knows his or her conduct is observable by others than the person he or she is having sexual intercourse with)
  • Sexual Gratification - A person who has oral or anal sex with another person in public or has sex with an animal
  • Lewd and Lascivious Behavior - Commits a sexual gratification act (see above) with another knowing they're in the presence of others or publically exposes their genitals or pubic area
  • Making Lewd, Obscene, or Indecent Drawings - Drawing or writing lewd, obscene, or indecent materials in a public place. Obscene material is defined as writing, pictures, films, etc that the average person applying the contemporary community standards finds, as a whole, appeals to a sexual interest, the material shows sexual conduct in an offensive way, and it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, educational, or scientific value.

Penalties

Public fornication, sexual gratification, and lewd and lascivious behavior are all Class A misdemeanors. The penalty for Class A misdemeanors in Wisconsin is not more than 9 months in jail or a fine up to $10,000, or both.

Making lewd, obscene, or indecent drawings is a Class C misdemeanor that can be punished by no more than 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

Note that these crimes don't currently require sex offender registration after conviction in Wisconsin, although similar crimes in other states, such as Texas or Illinois can get you on the registry.

Defenses

The appropriate defense for a case usually depends on the facts and circumstances. For example, for making an obscene drawing or writing charge, an artist could argue that the material is not obscene because it has serious artistic, literary, or educational value. The defendant would have to prove this, possibly by showing his or her other work and the context in which it was made.

Sometimes a defense is specific to a law. For example, Wisconsin law specifically in the statutes excludes breastfeeding babies from the sexual gratification and lewd and lascivious behavior laws.

Note: State laws change regularly -- it's important to confirm the currentness of the laws you're researching by contacting a local lawyer or researching the law further.

If you are facing a criminal charge for your public sexual or indecent behavior, you should contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney or public defender as soon as possible.

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