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Articles Posted in Indecent Exposure and Aggravated Indecent Exposure

A unique and specialized part of my criminal practice involves handling Michigan indecent and aggravated indecent exposure (IE) cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, as well as a few surrounding areas. I make no secret that my interest in this area springs from my undergraduate background in psychology and my post-graduate work in the field of addiction studies. Combined with my role as a criminal lawyer, I work hard in IE cases to make sure the court perceives my client as neither a dangerous criminal nor some kind of mentally unstable, mad flasher. It is very easy to go one way or the other with this; keeping the balance, however, requires a certain amount of deftness and skill, but it is absolutely necessary to produce the best outcome in any IE case.

Thumbnail image for balance 1.2.jpgAs a general rule, most people will “over-pathologize” indecent exposure situations, especially where a man has exposed himself in order to be seen. You can get a good idea of how nearly instinctive this is if you simply describe a situation where a guy in a car exposes himself to someone (usually, but not always, a woman) and wait for someone to say “That’s sick,” or something similar. If I only had to worry about how outsiders perceive the situation, however, my job would be ridiculously simple. Instead, the most important task I have is to manage the perception of those who matter most; the prosecutor and the Judge. As I have pointed out in other articles, having a thorough knowledge of the facts of a particular case and knowing the relevant law are mere starting points for a lawyer.

In a criminal case, the best result is achieved through combining knowledge of the facts and the relevant law with the careful management of perception, science and time. This is a universal truth, and applies in every criminal case that has ever taken place and will ever take place, whether the case is resolved by a plea, a jury trial, or is thrown out of court by the Judge. To that end, it seems rather fundamental that a lawyer trying to bring about the best result in any kind of IE case needs to understand, before anything else, what underlies the behavior at issue. How can a lawyer effectively communicate to others his or her client’s situation unless he or she understands it in the first place? This is not to suggest that a lawyer should “play doctor,” or, in this case, psychologist, even if he or she is trained in that field. However, it is equally troublesome for a lawyer to simply “punt” and send the client to be evaluated by some therapist. To really make things better, knowing exactly what therapist to employ is critically important…
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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.

Seem 1.2.jpgI’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.
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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.

depressed-man-sitting 1.2.jpgHaving 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.
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Facing a Michigan Indecent Exposure charge is an incredibly frightening experience. There is no need for anyone to compound your worries by highlighting all the potential jail time and other negative consequences that can be imposed by the court. However bad this situation seems at the moment, things usually can be made considerably better, even in cases that seem, by all accounts, to be “clear cut.” I hope this article brings a healthy dose of relief and reality to the subject, and helps reduce the anxiety a person feels as he deals with either an indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure case. For my part, I bring over 23 years’ experience as a criminal lawyer in the Detroit-area (meaning Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties) with a sub-specialty in this field. I have, quite literally, handled more of these cases than I can count, so this article is based on real-world experience.

In browsing the web and looking at some of the available information about indecent exposure charges, I came away the distinct impression that much (really too much) of it was fear-based. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about what I do as a Michigan indecent exposure lawyer, and it seemed like all of my “informational” articles have gotten buried under pages of well-designed sites put by other lawyer who seem preoccupied with describing themselves as ever more “tough” or “aggressive” than the next guy. Hopelessly short on any real information or sense of optimism, these sites simply focus on all of the possible legal sanctions and punishments that can be handed down for either a regular or an aggravated indecent exposure conviction. It seemed like the only point to this exercise was to scare the reader so much he’d call right away.

Hope 1.3.jpgAbout the worst thing you can do is “jump” to any lawyer with more fear in your heart than information in you r head. As I noted, despite how things feel or seem, the reality is that they’re probably not nearly as bad as you think.

That said, let’s be clear, rather than naïve; a conviction for either indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure isn’t something to brag about. For the most part, however, and with proper legal guidance, dealing with either a simple or an aggravated indecent exposure charge can be more like a bump in the road than any kind of crash. To put it another way, while this is a regrettable situation, it’s not anything to be scared out of your wits about.

In that regard, there are two very important things to get straight in order to begin our discussion. If your case is handled “properly” (and this does not imply that you should be paying outrageous legal fees), then you will almost certainly be kept out of jail, and you will not be put on the Michigan sex offender registry. In fact, winding up on the registry isn’t even a legal possibility in most indecent exposure cases. I have never had a client charged with indecent exposure, or even just aggravated indecent exposure, go to jail.

After all of my years of handling these cases, I understand how a person feels like a “black cloud” has gathered over his head when he has to deal with this situation. It seems like the negativity caused by having to face an indecent exposure charge has tentacles that reach into every corner of your life. Most people explain that, while it’s hard to imagine that there is any light at the end of the tunnel, it is certainly impossible to see any while in the middle of the case.

That will pass. Beyond my experience, I bring both a background (my bachelor’s degree is in psychology) and current involvement (I am formally involved in a post-graduate certification program in the psychology department at the University of Detroit Mercy) in the field of psychology. This is particularly useful because it allows me to protect my clients from being perceived by the court as either a criminal, or as having some kind of mental health problem. Neither of those labels is helpful. In the vast majority of indecent exposure cases I’ve handled, the client has been suffering from some kind of “frustration,” and not an underlying mental health disorder. This can be an anxiety or stress situation, or it can be the result of some dysfunction in his sex life. In fact, it can be as simple as a person just not having an adequate sex life. Whatever the case, these circumstances are usually the underlying realities that boil over and cause a person to “act out” in a way that leads to an indecent exposure charge.
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It costs a lot of money to advertise and a lot of time to become well known as a Michigan criminal lawyer, or a Macomb DUI lawyer, or even a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney. In fact, to become “known” through advertising, in any of these capacities, at least by the general public, would cost a fortune. As a result, when a case comes along and a lawyer is contacted by the media about his or her client, the opportunity for what amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars of “free” publicity presents itself. Without thinking, many lawyers will jump at the chance, often with a vague recollection of the notion that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” This is selfish and shortsighted thinking, at best.

If a lawyer’s primary concern is getting his or her name “out there,” then this is like winning the lottery. If, however, the lawyer’s primary concern is the well being of his or her client (as it darn well should be), then deflecting, rather than basking in the spotlight is very often the better, if not the more expensive choice. The inspiration for this article is the result of a recent case that came into my office. As I discussed the matter with my senior assistant, Ann, we realized that by doing the right thing for the client, I would literally be turning away an incalculable amount of free publicity. Yet it is precisely in my client’s best interests for this case to disappear, as much as possible, from the public radar.

Headline News 1.2.jpgImagine that you are arrested for some kind of criminal charge, or even a DUI, and somehow or other, it winds up in the paper, or on TV. It doesn’t have to be a feature or huge, front-page story, but for some reason word of your arrest gets out. Immediately, people who know you start talking. Your employer may find out. At that point, what’s the best thing that could happen? When you really think about it, the best thing that could happen is for the whole thing to just go away. There is no way to undo the publicity that has already been given to the story, so what you really want is that no one else hears about it, and that everyone who already has just forgets about it.

That won’t happen with some self-serving lawyer yapping away about your case. No matter what he or she says, or how much he or she insists that you’re innocent, all the attention is just that – attention, and it focuses right on you. If you want a situation to go away, you need to make it go away, and the first way to achieve that is to NOT talk about it. Over the years, I have quietly been involved in many cases that have started out being watched by various media outlets. You wouldn’t know about any of them, and that’s precisely the point.

Beyond just deflecting attention away from a client, I believe in deflecting it away from the officials involved in it, as well. It is far better to handle a case when neither the prosecutor nor the Judge feel the weight and scrutiny of the public gaze. To be sure, there are some cases that will always hold the public’s attention. When a public figure (think Kwame Kilpatrick or O.J. Simpson) is in trouble, the media will follow the case no matter who says what. There are also certain kinds of cases that capture the media’s attention just because of the facts. Most often, these are serious cases. A particular murder, kidnapping, or even case of the church secretary embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars will sometimes be “interesting” enough to follow independent of anything any of the parties say about it.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Judges are elected officials. So is the county prosecutor. As much as any politician wants “good” press, he or she certainly wants, more than anything, to avoid any “bad” press. Being seen as soft on crime is not a political asset. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a Judge. When election time rolls around, do you think it could ever hurt you to be known as the Judge who is really tough on drunk drivers? Yet if your opponent were challenging you by claiming that you had been too soft on drunk drivers, you’d be stuck defending yourself. Looking at it from an electability standpoint, being seen as tough on drunk drivers is an asset, while being seen as too soft is a political liability.
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Indecent Exposure charges are very different from other Criminal charges on almost every level. Many Indecent Exposure charges are brought only after the Suspect has been contacted by the Police after a license plate number that was provided has been checked. In contrast to Drunk Driving or Drug Possession cases, which almost always begin with the Police observing or otherwise discovering the person doing the very thing with which they are charged (i.e., driving drunk, or possessing illegal drugs), many Indecent Exposure cases require a little preliminary Police investigation.

That said, a significant number of Indecent Exposure cases come about as the result of the Police stumbling upon a person in a compromising position, as well. There is a decent chance that if you’re reading this, you’ve just had some firsthand experience with one of these two scenarios.

Sared Little Guy 1.2.jpgI know how nervous and scared a person feels in this situation. I’ve handled more of these cases than I can count. In every one of them, that volatile emotional mix included a strong dose of embarrassment, as well. Thus, when I speak of a person needing some “protection,” I mean that, beyond someone to just look out for their Legal well-being, they need someone who can understand the emotional stress and fear they’re experiencing. That’s where I help.

I not only understand how a person facing either a simple Indecent Exposure charge, or the more serious Aggravated Indecent Exposure charge feels, but I know that, very often, there is some other source of stress in the person’s life that led to the incident. You’d be surprised at the kind and status of the people who wind up facing one of these charges. In fact, quite unlike what someone on the outside might at first imagine, many of the people who wind up facing some kind of Indecent Exposure charge are “above average” or of a distinctly “higher level.” I’ve represented every kind of person in this situation, from the proverbial “average guy” to men with advanced graduate degrees.

In almost every case, a person’s top two concerns are their Record, and staying out of Jail. One could sarcastically say that if you’re facing an Indecent Exposure conviction, you should have thought about that beforehand. Yet whatever incident brings on such considerations, and aside from whatever did or did not happen, protecting your Record is a huge priority.

Of course staying out of Jail is important, as well as avoiding a term of difficult Probation. Keeping you out of Jail is rather easy for me, and that sometimes comes as both a relief and a surprise to my Clients. In fact, I’ve never had a single Client of mine go to Jail in an Indecent Exposure case, and I’ve handled more of them than I can honestly count. The whole point of hiring a Lawyer like me is to make the outcome of the case, meaning what will actually happen to you, better.
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It’s been a while since I last wrote about Indecent Exposure charges, and in that time I have noticed that there has been a significant change, or shift, in how these cases are brought, and exactly what Offense is being charged. Recently, I’ve dealt with several cases where my Client has, somewhat mistakenly, thought they were facing a simple Misdemeanor charge.

An astute reader will, at this point, ask, “what do you mean, somewhat mistakenly? Either your Client is right, or he’s mistaken.”

flasherGuy2.jpgI have chosen my words carefully. I mean somewhat mistakenly. Read on…

Until a few years ago, the only “Indecent Exposure” crime that existed in Michigan was simple Indecent Exposure, which is a Misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in Jail, but no more than that. And to be clear, in practice, Jail in any Indecent Exposure case can be completely avoided if things are handled properly. In fact, as a Lawyer who rather routinely handles Indecent Exposure cases in the Metro-Detroit area, I am usually able to entirely keep the whole charge off of my Client’s Record, meaning the whole incident just “goes away,” much less keep the Client from getting locked up.

Then, several years back, the Legislature amended the Law, and added a new charge called “Aggravated Indecent Exposure.” This new addition to the Law upped the penalties in cases where, beyond just exposing himself or herself, a person was seen fondling his or her private parts.

At first, even in those cases where there was fondling, many, if not most Police agencies just reverted to bringing the charge as regular old “Indecent Exposure.”

More recently, however, the tables have turned, and I see more and more cases being brought as “Aggravated Indecent Exposure.” In fact, it has been a while since I’ve seen a garden-variety simple Indecent Exposure. Instead, almost all the cases I’ve handled in the last several months have been “Aggravated Indecent Exposure” charges, which are Felony Offenses.
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In recent months, I have seen a noticeable increase in the number of Indecent Exposure cases coming into my Practice. Fair warning here: this article is going to use some terms that are not be suitable for children as we take a look at a couple of common themes involved in many of these cases.

In my 20-plus years of handling cases like this, I have come to fully understand how embarrassing, humiliating and frightening this kind of charge is to the person facing it. Likewise, I’m keenly aware that it is important for me to ease my Clients’ mind and help them move past those feelings, as we begin to develop a strategy to handle the case, and make things better.

flasher2.gifThere are really 2 charges that fall under the umbrella of Indecent Exposure:

The first, and most common, is a Misdemeanor simply called “Indecent Exposure” which carries a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in Jail. It is sometimes linked or written as “Disorderly Person/Indecent Exposure.”

The second, and more serious charge is technically called “Aggravated Indecent Exposure.” This is a Felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of up to 2 years in prison. Felony cases are ultimately handled in the Circuit Court for whatever County in which the case is brought.

The difference between these 2 charges is that Aggravated Indecent Exposure involves fondling of the genitalia. Interestingly, a significant percentage of cases involving such fondling are still brought as regular, Misdemeanor Indecent Exposure charges. To date none of my Clients have been upset about that decision….

The vast majority of Indecent Exposure cases involve a man being charged. Of the hundreds of such cases I have handled, I’ve only seen one or two involving women.

And while there are plenty of cases where some guy gets caught urinating behind a dumpster, or in an alley, quite a few Indecent Exposure cases involve masturbation. This really splits into 1 of 2 things:
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Okay, I had to have a little fun with the title of this article, but the reality is that, for anyone facing this charge, it’s really no laughing matter. Indecent Exposure cases are relatively common, and in my practice as a Criminal Defense Lawyer, come up regularly, if not necessarily frequently. In other words, I get my fair share.

Indecent Exposure is a Misdemeanor, but recent changes in the law have created a new kind of Indecent Exposure charge called “Aggravated Indecent Exposure,” which is kind of hybrid crime called a “High Court Misdemeanor .” There is a very small class of Crimes called “High Court Misdemeanors” which are handled and prosecuted as Felonies, even though they are specifically called Misdemeanors in the Law.

Flasher.jpgWhen I say “handled and prosecuted as Felonies” I mean that, unlike typical Misdemeanor cases, which are and must be handled in the local, District Court, these cases start, like all Felonies, in the District Court, but must be finalized in the County’s Circuit Court.

Unlike some Laws, which are complex and difficult, even for a Lawyer, to understand, the Indecent Exposure Law is straightforward and clear, and anyone reading it can understand it. Accordingly, there is no need for me to elaborate on the difference between the basic Misdemeanor and the Aggravated, High-Court Misdemeanor, beyond pointing out that what makes an Indecent Exposure Charge “Aggravated” is that the person charged was somehow “fondling” themselves.

The majority of Indecent Exposure charges involve having some private part exposed. While the name of the Crime itself can sound kind of “trench coat-flasher” creepy, many people are surprised to learn that merely urinating behind a building is an act of Indecent Exposure. Of course, for those who have been caught while relieving themselves, the whole notion of being charged with a sex crime is even more distasteful. It’s probably true that most people would think of the terms “indecent exposure” as a “sex crime” when it involves something like “flashing.” Despite what anyone thinks, and indeed, what anyone intended to do, or not to do, merely having certain private body parts exposed is enough to be charged with indecent exposure. No flashing, and no “audience” are necessary. As long as someone could possibly come upon and see a person who has some private part exposed, then having such a part exposed is Indecent Exposure.
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