A Hernando County Resident and Tampa Firefighter/ Paramedic was recently arrested for two counts of Indecent and/or Vulgar Exposure of Sexual Organs. Indecent Exposure of Sexual Organs is a First Degree Misdemeanor under Florida law and punishable up to one year in the county jail.
What made the facts of this arrest so unique was that not only was the defendant a Hillsborough County Paramedic and Firefighter, but also the allegation is that these crimes occurred at nearby public schools. The lawyers at the Brooksville, FL State Attorney’s Office are currently pursuing these cases as misdemeanors. It is unclear at this time if they will ask the court to consider an enhanced charge (Third Degree Felony) due to the proximity of the alleged conduct to schools. This would be a novel approach to this sex crimes charge. Although, this type of enhancement is commonly enforced in drug sale and drug purchase cases.
In Florida, in order to prove the crime of Exposure of Sexual Organs (In a Vulgar or Indecent Manner), pursuant to Florida Statute 800.03, the State of Florida must prove:
1) The defendant exposed him/herself and/or was naked; 2) It was done in either a public place, on the another’s private property or so close to another’s private property that he or she could be seen from that property; 3) It was done in a way the it was intended to be indecent, vulgar, lewd or lascivious; and 4) It was actually indecent, vulgar, lewd or lascivious. The words “indecent, vulgar, lewd or lascivious” are usually defined as a unlawful and lustful or with a sexual intent. It is certainly not a black and white definition and is commonly the subject of a question for the jury in a criminal trial to determine.
The intent of the defendant will come under much discussion in this case as it is alleged that the defendant made the statement that “he gets a ‘rush’ while exposing himself.” The Judge will need to determine the admissibility of that statement, truthful or not, and the tactics used by law enforcement to acquire such a comment will hopefully come under question.
There have been some interesting cases in Florida criminal courts over the years on this statute as the definition of indecent or lewd has been tough to determine. While it was determined by both the Federal Court and the Florida Supreme Court that mere public nudity would not violate this statute (See U.S. v. A Naked Person Issued Notice of Violation, 841 F.Supp. 1153 (M.D.Fla. 1993) & Hoffman v. Carson, 20 So.2d 891 (Fla. 1971)), the location of the act has come under scrutiny. The 5th DCA, which is the appellate court for the counties in the 5th Judicial Circuit (i.e. Hernando, Citrus, Sumter, Lake and Marion Counties), found that conduct in a restroom stall with the door closed should be viewed differently than conduct in the open area of a public restroom. Similarly, the 4th DCA found that the actions of a “Peeping Tom” would certainly fall within the intent and letter of this Florida Criminal Statute. Additionally, and of some note, the Florida Legislature carved out an exception for public breast feeding.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a Florida Sex Crime in Hernando County or elsewhere in Florida, contact the lawyers at the Law Offices of Whittel & Melton, LLC immediately. We can be reached by phone in Hernando County at 352-666-2121, Toll-Free Statewide at 1-866-608-5LAW(5529) or contact us online.