If you have been charged with wilful and obscene exposure in Victoria, or sexual exposure as it is now called, you may be liable to be found guilty and receive a criminal conviction, a fine, and/or a prison sentence if found guilty in a Victorian Court. If you have a criminal conviction recorded on your record in relation to sexual exposure, you may find it extremely difficult to find and maintain employment in the future, especially in certain areas such as teaching and health.
If you have been charged with obscene exposure, you should contact Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers. We have criminal defence lawyers specialising in breaches of the Summary Offences Act, including obscene exposure (now called sexual exposure), who can help you with your criminal charges. If you have been charged, and are summonsed to appear in Ringwood, Frankston, Dandenong, Moorabbin, Geelong, Ballarat or the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, you should contact one of our experienced legal professionals as soon as possible.
Obscene Exposure / Sexual Exposure is considered a public order offence and is punishable under s19 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic). You may be, or may have already been, charged with Obscene Exposure under the Act. Section 19 states that “A person must not wilfully and obscenely expose the genital area of his or her body in, or within the view of, a public place”. The provision also imposes a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.
What the prosecution must prove
In order to convict you, the prosecution must demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that you:
· Wilfully and obscenely exposed your genital area, and
· Did so in, or within the view of, a public place.
The meaning of “obscene” was described by Justice Harper in Pell v Council of the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria  2 VR 391 as “a failure to meet recognized standards of propriety”. Obscenity may be dependant on contemporary social standards, but it is generally accepted that exposing one’s genitals is obscene.
However, it is not necessarily obscene to be naked n a public place (see generally Moloney v Mercer  2 NSWLR 207). It would depend on the circumstances of the exposure and the nature of the public place. For example, being naked on a legally recognised nudist beach would not amount to obscene exposure.
What is a “public place” may also come into issue. Section 19 provides that it is sufficient that a person obscenely exposed themselves “within the view of” a public place, so that the defendant need not actually have been in a public place. It is also not necessary for another person to have seen the defendant obscenely expose themselves in a public place, although it would be harder to prove the defendant had actually done so (R v Benson; Ex parte Tubby (1882) 8 VLR 2).
The accused must also have intended to behave obscenely (R v Towe  VLR 381). That is, the prosecution cannot make out the offence if the accused has exposed him or herself without intending to do so. Unintentional exposure may be a defence to a charge of Obscene Exposure.
If you have been charged with Obscene Exposure, one of our criminal defence solicitors may be able to raise a defence in your matter at court. The defence of duress may be available if you were forced to expose yourself against your will, therefore eliminating the wilful element of the offence. You may also be able to raise the defence of necessity, if some circumstance arose where you were forced to expose yourself. These defences are difficult to raise, and you should consult an expert criminal defence lawyer to discuss your options with you.
There may also be an issue of fact, particularly where there may not have actually been exposure of the genitals, or you were not in, or in the view of, a public place. One of our criminal lawyers will be able to discuss these defences with you.
Another defence or mitigating circumstance may be that of mental impairment. If you, or someone you know has been charged with obscene exposure, they may be able to raise this defence where a mental impairment has affected or caused the illegal act. You should discuss possible mental health issues with your solicitor.
Pursuant to Section 19 of the Summary Offences Act, you may face 2 years in prison if you are convicted of Obscene Exposure / Sexual Exposure. This is the maximum penalty the court may impose, and can do so in serious circumstances.
You may instead be issued with a Community Corrections Order (CCO). While this may keep you out of prison, you must abide by strict reporting arrangements and not commit another offence for a certain period. You may still be convicted, and this will show on your personal record.
You may also be fined in lieu of other penalties, or in addition to other penalties. The Court may choose to issue you with a fine as a stern warning not to commit future offending, and to remedy any harm you may have caused to the public.
What to do
Dribbin and Brown Criminal Lawyers have experienced criminal solicitors in Frankston, Moorabbin, Dandenong, Ringwood, Geelong, Ballarat and the Melbourne CBD. Our solicitors also attend other various courts across Victoria. If you have been charged with obscene exposure, or expect you might be charged at a future date, you should contact one of our expert criminal lawyers as soon as possible. The earlier your solicitor knows about your matter, the more time they have to prepare. With enough time and preparation, your lawyer can get you the best possible result. Obscene exposure can be a serious offence, and you may receive a criminal conviction if found guilty. Consult a criminal solicitor as soon as possible.