Tennessee Indecent Exposure Laws
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Tennessee prohibits both indecent exposure and public indecency, essentially prohibiting sexual activity in public, public nudity, and genital exposure to adults or children for sexual gratification. The details of Tennessee's indecent exposure laws are outlined below.
Tennessee Code Section 39-13-511: Public Indecency & Indecent Exposure
What Is Prohibited?
In Tennessee, three forms of indecent behavior in public are prohibited:
- Public Indecency - Knowingly engages in vaginal, anal, or oral sex, masturbation, flagellation or excretory function for sexual gratification, or other sexual conduct; fondles the genitals of himself or herself or another person; or appears nude (showing genitals, female areola, or covered erect penis) in public. Note: single sex public restrooms, enclosed motel rooms, and many other enclosed spaces aren't considered public.
- Indecent Exposure - Two types:
- Intentionally exposing one's genitals or buttocks to another or engaging in sexual contact (touching anyone's intimate parts) while reasonably expecting the act to be viewed by another and the act will often an ordinary viewer or is done to sexual arouse the defendant, whether done in public or another's private premises.
- Knowingly inviting a child into the person's residence for purposes of sexual gratification by intentionally exposing the genitals, butt, or female breasts or masturbating in the presence (or intended presence) of the child.
- Indecent Exposure while Incarcerated - When an inmate intentionally exposes his or her genitals or butt to a guard or engages in sexual contact with the intent to harass or embarrass the guard.
Public indecency is a Class B misdemeanor punishable only by a fine of $500 for the first or second offense. The third or subsequent offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by $1,500 fine and not more than 11 months and 29 days in jail. If the defendant was working at the time of the incident, the employer may be liable for the fine, but only if the employer knew or should have known of the employee's acts.
Indecent exposure is a Class B misdemeanor unless the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is under 13, in which case it's a Class A misdemeanor. If the defendant is 18 or older, the victim is under 13, and the defendant has two or more prior convictions for any of these crimes, then it is a Class E Felony. Class E felonies can be punished by 1-6 years in prison and a fine up to $3,000. Additionally for three or more convictions of indecent exposure, you will be required to register as a sex offender in Tennessee.
Indecent Exposure while Incarcerated is a Class A misdemeanor, even if committed by a child under 18 while in a juvenile detention facility.
The Tennessee indecent exposure statute provides several defenses specific to various circumstances:
- It's legal to breastfeed your baby in public or private
- It's not public indecency if a person who tries to conceal his or her excretory functions from public view while relieving himself or herself in an unincorporated part of Tennessee
- Nude modeling for an art class isn't prohibited
- Private, clothing-optional facilities which are properly licensed by the State of Tennessee aren't public places for these laws
- Theater productions can contain nudity if it has serious artistic merit (for example, it isn't a prohibited sexual performance)
- Theater companies won't owe the indecent exposure fine for nudity in a serious production
- There's a "Romeo & Juliet" exception for a defendant under 18 and "victim" over 13 who are engaging in sexual conduct that would otherwise be indecent exposure
Finally, the prosecution can't start an indecent exposure action for exposure of the genitals, buttocks, or female breasts in the "intended presence" of a child based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a witness related to the accused as any of the following:
- A former or current spouse
- Romantic partner
- Relative by blood, adoption, or marriage
- An adult or minor child of any of the above listed individuals
Note: State laws change frequently -- it's important to verify the laws you're researching.
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