LAW REVIEW: A full moon leads to a court date
Have you ever been “mooned”? And I don’t mean moonbeams shining on your face.
According to a new case, to “moon” is “to exhibit one’s bare buttocks as a defiant or amusing gesture, usually at a window.” I may be dating myself, but technically that’s a pressed moon.
On a summer day, Dallas W. and four of his friends walked along a public street in Artesia. Dallas twice stopped to moon oncoming traffic.
Sean Warner, an employee of the City of Artesia – an uptight kind of guy, happened to be across the street. Warner called the police because he was “angry and concerned for the safety of people in the street.” Goodie-two-shoes Warner demanded that Dallas W. be arrested. He was.
Dallas was charged with misdemeanor indecent exposure. The juvenile court found that Dallas had “exposed his buttocks with the intent to annoy and affront people.” Nothing gets by the juve court. The court, however, found that Dallas did not act with “sexual intent,” yet he was convicted and made a ward of the court.
Now, back in the old days when “streaking” was in, a group of us were attending the first-ever Truckee Rodeo.
Two of my friends were surprise streakers at the Truckee Rodeo – wearing only cowboy hats and boots. The whole episode would have passed as an ill-timed stunt; however, the announcer poked one of the streakers in the stomach with a cattle prod and over the microphone charged, “cowboys get your ropes.”
That was the beginning of my criminal law career. The two buddies were charged with felony indecent exposure. Letters to the editor flew back and forth for months – longer even than the Truckee dog wars and perhaps as long as the gay wedding fall-out. The courtroom was packed with “concerned citizens” at every hearing.
My clients got off with malicious mischief, but it was only after hundreds of hours of legal maneuvering, for which I was paid a dozen duck decoys and a buoyancy compensator for scuba diving. Those were the old days.
As we were saying, Dallas of Artesia contended that there was no evidence that he bared his buttocks “lewdly.”
In fact, “lewd” behavior is necessary for an indecent exposure conviction. In a famous case, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of a nude sunbather, requiring proof that the sunbather intended to “direct public attention to his genitals for purposes of sexual arousal, gratification or affront.” The Superior Court found it would be a severe consequence to be convicted and required to register as a sex offender for skinny dipping.
That was the same argument I successfully made in the Truckee streakers case.
The court finally concluded that while Dallas certainly exhibited bad judgment and poor taste, his mooning was only to annoy and affront people and not with “sexual intent.” The court suggested a few other offenses Dallas committed, but indecent exposure was not one of them.
As a result of the sunbather and other similar cases, municipalities are making nudity unlawful, thus avoiding the indecent exposure defense.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter/Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firm’s web site http://www.portersimon.com.
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