Public Indecency and Colorado Sex Offender Sentencing

 

In many legal areas, people are given three ‘strikes’ before they’re assumed to be career criminals. Not so in Colorado sex offender sentencing: two strikes, and you’re out. Specifically, if you get charged with public indecency once, and then you get charged with a specific kind of public indecency a second time, you get sentenced as a sex offender.

The First Offense

The first charge of public indecency in this process can be any of the kinds that exist in Colorado State Law, including performing any of the following where someone might reasonably see you:

  • Have sex,
  • Lewdly expose an intimate but non-genital part of your body with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of any person,
  • Lewdly fondle or caress the body of another person, or
  • Knowingly expose your genitals in a way that is likely to cause affront or alarm to another person.

Seems pretty simple. As with the Internet, the first rule of public decency turns out to be “don’t tweet your junk.” But alas, Colorado has an amazing ability to turn something simple into something horribly wrong.

The Second Offense

If you get caught knowingly exposing your genitals in a way that is likely to cause affront or harm to another person, and you already have any Public Indecency charge on your record, congratulations: you’re a sex offender.

The Problem

Clearly, this law is intended to prevent flashers from flashing. But the intent and the actuality of the law are frequently at odds, and it turns out the most common kind of ‘sex offender’ sentenced under this law are drunk men — because urinating in public, at all, is automatically considered “knowingly exposing your genitals in a way that is likely to cause affront or alarm.”

So, you have a youthful indiscretion where you and your girlfriend get caught doing the deed in your backyard. Then years later, after girlfriend is long gone, you get sloppy drunk at a college party and end up peeing on a tree. A cop sees you, busts you, and guess what?

Welcome to the sex offender registry. Hope you like it, it’s going to be a long stay.