Lewd, indecent or obscene acts in D.C.

It is against the law in Washington, D.C. for a person to “make an obscene or indecent exposure of his or her genitalia or anus, to engage in masturbation, or to engage in a sexual act.”  It is also unlawful to make “an obscene or indecent sexual proposal to a minor.” D.C. Criminal Code ยง 22-1312.  

The penalty for violating this statute is up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500.

Sexual acts are defined as (1) the penetration, however slight, of the anus or vulva of another by a penis, (2) contact between the mouth and the penis, the mouth and the vulva, or the mouth and the anus, or (3) the penetration, however slight, of the anus or vulva by a hand or finger or by any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.  The emission of semen is not required.  D.C. Code 22-3001(8).

Indecent exposure requires exposure at a time and place in which a reasonable person would know that his/her acts will be open to the observation of others.  Parnigoni v. District of Columbia, 933 A.2d 823 (D.C. 2007).  The accused does not need to have a specific intent to expose himself to any particular person.  It is sufficient if the defendant generally intended to expose himself so as to draw attention to his exposed condition.  Id.  

The required criminal intent for indecent exposure is usually established by evidence indicating that the defendant attempted to draw attention to his exposed condition or by display in a place so public that it must be presumed it was intended to be seen by others.  Hearn v. District of Columbia, 178 A.2d 434 (Cr. App. 1962).   In other words, surreptitious masturbation in a public place — without more — might not satisfy the requirements of the statute.