If you’re facing a charge of aggravated indecent exposure, then you are undoubtedly under a lot of stress. This is a scary-sounding charge, and it typically comes with a healthy dose of embarrassment and regret, as well. In another indecent exposure article I wrote a few months ago, I noted that, however bad things may seem at the moment, the reality is that things won’t turn out nearly as bad as you fear, no matter how clear-cut the charge. In this article, I want to circle back to the topic of stress, because often overlooked in these cases is the fact that other stressors in your life probably account for why this whole incident happened in the first place.
This is more than just an academic exercise; as a Michigan indecent exposure lawyer, if I can establish a good connection between the actual exposure incident and something going on in your life, or at least the way you are dealing with the circumstances in your life, it can help lessen the impact this charge will have on your future. And that leads us to the really good news: You will almost certainly NOT go to jail, unless you have a bad prior record, particularly with this kind of offense. If you’re a first offender, then you can relax. A lot. I know how to make things better.
Having handled countless Michigan indecent exposure and aggravated indecent exposure charges (we’ll just say “IE” from here on out, instead of “indecent exposure” or “aggravated indecent exposure”) in my 24 years as a lawyer, I have certainly over-learned the numerous legalities involved. Beyond all of the legal stuff, however, I know that there is almost always an underlying personal crisis of sorts going on for most men who wind up facing an IE charge. And to draw any real benefit from this discussion, we can dispense with formality and political correctness and get down to the heart of the matter. Accordingly, we should begin by acknowledging the reality that the overwhelming majority of IE charges are brought against men, and not women. By the same token, if the charge arises because a complaint has been made to the police, it is almost always a woman who has made it.
The reality is that men typically don’t “flash” other men. Also, at least in my experience, the kind of men who wind up facing an IE charge usually have good jobs and decent lives. In fact, I don’t recall a single IE client who was unemployed, or in any way “down and out.” As it happens, many of my IE clients have college degrees, and some even have advanced degrees. Technical occupations, like building, engineering and industrial occupations, are common amongst my pool of IE clients. I’ve never sat across the table from a guy charged with IE client who wasn’t intelligent, gainfully employed and otherwise reasonably successful. Whatever else, IE clients are not mouth breathing smash-and-grab criminals.
Yet they sometimes feel like it. In a strange way, whatever stress leads one to commit an act of IE gets dwarfed by the stress of facing the criminal charge that follows. Here’s where we have to slow down a bit and sort things out for your personal benefit and to help in the underlying criminal case. After having done this as many times as I have, I can almost write the story in advance. The man sitting across the table for me is embarrassed beyond words. The last thing he ever thought he’d wind up doing is sitting in a lawyer’s office talking about something he cannot, in retrospect, believe that he did.
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” my mom used to say. Of course, sitting in my office and discussing how to make things go away, there is not a singly guy who, in retrospect, thinks what he did was a good idea. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard something like “I don’t know what I was thinking,” or “I can’t believe I did that.” Despite my trying to make clear that I don’t sit in judgment, a lot of the men I see want to try and clarify to me that this act doesn’t represent who they are as a person. I know that. I have developed a concentration in IE cases in part because I truly understand that otherwise good people can sometimes act out in unfortunate ways.
About 28 years ago, I earned my undergraduate in the field of psychology. Thereafter, I chose to pursue a Juris Doctor degree, and became a lawyer. Yet my interest in human behavior has never waned, and today, I am still formally involved in the study of psychology at the post-graduate level. And it is at this point where I can be most useful to an IE client. Beyond just being the lawyer, I can deal with the prosecutor and the court by having a foot in both the legal and the clinical worlds. I can help assuage the fears of the prosecutor that this act doesn’t represent some step along the continuum of sexually predatory behavior. Part of what I have to do is cool off the “criminal” part of this charge, without making my client seem “disturbed” or “sick.” Believe me, just about any lawyer could blunder into one of these cases and make a lot of racket about his or her client needing counseling; the end result is that the client can wind up stuck in expensive and never-ending treatment.
That’s not helpful. Instead, we need to explain how this incident is, at most, an “acting out” in response to life stressors that can be managed, perhaps with a little direction. We need to avoid “over-treatment” and make things better. Here, less is more. Certainly, we need to make clear that, although a law may have been violated, my client isn’t any kind of “criminal.” Yet we have to go a step further and establish that my client does not suffer from any kind of psychopathology, either. In other words, we have to make sure that things don’t get taken too far with the “he needs help” sentiment. Help, as in dealing with life stressors in a better way is fine, but not help, as in you have some kind of “problem.”
And while I can speak the language of the clinician, I also fundamentally understand my role as the lawyer, and not the psychologist. I’ll make sure that, if it becomes helpful or necessary, we utilize the services of a specialist (who, by the way, does NOT charge loads of money just because of that “specialist” designation) in the field of sex offenses. About the least effective thing a person can do is to just see “a counselor.” A given counselor may be the best marriage therapist in the world (and sometimes, that becomes necessary in these situations, but certainly not as part of the criminal case), or the best substance abuse counselor around, but dealing with what is broadly considered “sex offenses” is a specialty all its own. Knowing who to see, and when, can be an important strategic advantage in successfully resolving an IE case.
It can be a catastrophic (and very amateur) mistake to start running around and getting into all kinds of counseling before you’ve even discussed potential strategies with your lawyer. Sometimes, an IE case can be handled rather quietly, and all the doom and gloom that seems poised to drop upon you avoided completely. I’ve had plenty of clients NOT get stuck in counseling. Some Judges understand that a man’s embarrassment, fear and shame are enough. There are still some situations where common sense prevails and an IE case can be seen for what it was; a single incident of really bad judgment committed by a person who will never do anything like it again. It’s best not to undertake any remedial steps, like jumping into counseling, until they prove necessary or strategically advantageous.
Whether the incident can be handled as purely isolated or not, we still come back to the issue of life stressors. In the spirit of the candor I mentioned earlier in this article, one of the most common stresses that I find amongst men charged with IE crimes is a lack of a healthy sex life. If married, I often hear reports of things having gone “cold” in the bedroom. It seems to make sense, when you step back and think about it for a moment, that sexually satisfied men don’t generally need to look for other outlets for sexual energy. In other words, whatever the reasons a man may not have a healthy sexual outlet, IE incidents can often be an unhealthy expression of frustrated and unsatisfied drives.
This can extend all the way to a guy parked in what he thought was a secluded enough place looking for a little “alone time.” Still, most of the cases I see involve a direct and deliberate exposure to another person, almost always a female.
This discussion could, of course, continue indefinitely, but the larger point is to make clear that IE cases almost always result from the bubbling up of stress in a person’s life. For whatever reason, the pressure becomes too much (and to be clear, the person himself may not be consciously aware of this; some of these processes occur subconsciously) and it finds a release. Of course, after being charged with an IE offense, a person feels even more stressed out. I want to make clear that these cases can very often be resolved in a way that is probably much better (as in lenient) than you fear. Sometimes, we can avoid any kind of record right out of the gate. Jail won’t be on the menu, nor will you become any kind of registered sex offender. The real risk is to get bound up in long-term probation with ongoing, expensive and unnecessary counseling and treatment that can be avoided by being appropriately proactive.
I can help with that. If you’re facing any kind of Michigan indecent exposure charge in the Detroit-area, meaning any of the courts of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties, do your homework as you look for an attorney. Read what other lawyers have written. “Listen” to the voice in those writings to find the one that speaks most directly to you. Compare how each lawyer analyses these situations, and then pick up the phone and call.
Of course, as part of your search, make sure you call my office at (586) 228-6523 anytime between 8:30 and 5, Monday through Friday.