Sometimes, when a person learns that a significant portion of my practice concentrates in Michigan indecent exposure cases and aggravated indecent exposure cases, he or she will say something condescending, or ask how I can deal with "sex offenders." In this article, I want to make clear how strongly I believe indecent exposure and aggravated indecent exposure (hereafter describes as "IE" to make things easier) are not really true "sex crimes." Perhaps the strongest way for me to do this is to be clear that I don't handle sex crimes, but I do handle IE cases.
The term "IE cases" is broad: It can cover a whole range of behavior, from a person just being seen exposing him or herself (sometimes, negligently, or at least not intentionally), to actually intentionally exposing one's self, as well as being caught getting "frisky," whether alone or with another person, and a whole lot of stuff in between. At worst, IE charges result from a person wanting to "shock" another with an unsolicited visual. Almost always, there is at least some distance, and usually a physical barrier, between the performer and the audience. At best, the person making the complaint observes something not necessarily done for him or her to see.
I've been involved with IE cases where the man charged has offered to perform for a willing female audience through an internet listing. I've read exchanges of emails between the parties with the man going to great lengths to verify that the woman on the other end is an adult. The only problem in this situation is that the woman on the other end of the computer was a police detective and the agreed upon rendezvous spot was in a parking lot, with the man "performing" in his car.
However you cut it, IE cases do not involve predatory physical contact, or even the imminent threat of physical contact. IE is at the opposite end of the world from a case of groping, or rape. The whole mindset involved is very different. That's why I don't handle rape cases, or child molestation cases. I could never imagine trying to help a rapist get away with his crime, nor could I ever imagine defending a child molester.
Typically, a man accused of an IE crime is "acting out" as the result of some kind of pressure in his life. Sometimes, this has to do with sexual frustration at home. Other times, it does not. Whatever else, at least with my clients, an incident of IE is not done with an intent to physically harm someone else. Here, however, is where the rubber meets the road. It's great that I know this, and that my client knows this, but the real issue is making sure the Judge understands this. And to be clear, he or she most likely will not, at least not without a lot of help from me.
I pride myself on being an honest lawyer. You can snicker about that all you want, but if the size of this blog says anything, it's that I have a passion for what I do. It's easy to tell people what they want to hear, but, if you have a real conscience, then you have to live with the damage caused by that. A lawyer friend of mine once joked that being honest cost him a lot of money. It might be funny, but it's also true. And here is another thing that's true, although it's a somewhat cold and kind of ugly truth that most people facing an IE charge already know, or at least feel: There is a pervasive kind of "yuck" or "pervert" factor inherent in these cases, at least as far as the public is concerned. You can bring this point home real fast when you think about your boss or neighbors finding out about the charge, must less learning the underlying facts that gave rise to it. My job is to get rid of that "factor" to the extent humanly (and legally) possible.