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Law School Case Brief

In re Smith - 7 Cal. 3d 362, 102 Cal. Rptr. 335, 497 P.2d 807 (1972)

Rule:

A person does not expose his private parts "lewdly" within the meaning of Cal. Penal Code § 314 unless his conduct is sexually motivated. Accordingly, a conviction of that offense requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the actor not only meant to expose himself, but intended by his conduct to direct public attention to his genitals for purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or affront.

Facts:

After being observed sunbathing nude on a public but secluded beach, petitioner was arrested and convicted of indecent exposure, in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 314(1). The trial court fined him and sentenced him to probation. Petitioner was thereafter required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 290. After petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal, he petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus.

Issue:

Was the act of sunbathing in the nude on an isolated beach, without intent to engage in sexual activity, punishable under a statute which made it a crime to “willfully and lewdly” expose the private parts of the body?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of California granted habeas corpus, holding that Cal. Penal Code § 314(1) had not been violated. Although conceding that petitioner had "willfully" exposed himself, the Court noted that the statute also requires that the exposure be made "lewdly," and that the evidence failed to establish that it was so made. In summary, the Court declared that absent additional conduct intentionally directing attention to his genitals for sexual purposes, a person who simply sunbathes on an isolated beach does not "lewdly" expose his private parts within the meaning of Pen. Code, § 314.

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