Indecent Exposure Laws in Arizona


Many people think of urinating in public as a minor transgression, but Arizona law (A.R.S. 13-1402) considers it a serious offense under some circumstances. The penalties for this crime will vary based on your criminal history and how old the witness to the exposure was.

For example, if you commit this crime in front of a person who is 15 or younger, the penalties will be more severe. Aggravating circumstances can escalate the crime from a misdemeanor charge to a felony.

While local regulations may differ when it comes to indecent exposure, there are laws that apply to the whole of Arizona regarding this topic, which we’ll cover below. Even if the exposure doesn’t involve a sexual act or intention, public urination is still considered a sex crime. If you’ve been accused of this crime, you should seek legal counsel as soon as you can.

Regulations on Indecent Exposure and Public Urination

  • Public urination is a crime of indecent exposure according to Arizona law
  • Even though it’s not a sexual act, it may still be charged as a sex crime
  • Indecent exposure is different from acts of public sexual indecency
  • Depending on your criminal history, you might be required to register as a sex offender for indecent exposure
  • A legal professional can potentially help you reduce your charges or have them dismissed altogether

Arizona law states that you’ve committed indecent exposure when you recklessly expose specific body parts (the genitals, anus, or female areola/nipple) to another person without considering that they may be offended or alarmed by it. So, under specific circumstances, you may receive this charge for urinating in public.

Depending on the situation, you may get a criminal nuisance charge if you’re caught committing public urination. Criminal nuisance, according to Arizona law, is an act that is unreasonable or illegal in that it endangers the safety or health of others. The law considers public urination a potential danger to the health of other people.

Public Sexual Indecency vs. Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is distinct from the crime of engaging in a sex act in public. Public sexual indecency applies to the act of knowingly or intentionally engaging in public sexual contact, oral sexual contact, bestiality, or sexual intercourse with a third-party present.

Like indecent exposure, there must have been a witness, and the defendant must have been reckless about whether they would be alarmed or offended. The severity of consequences will also depend on how old the witness was and whether or not the defendant has previous offenses on their record.

Penalties for Public Urination (Indecent Exposure)

People who are convicted of an indecent exposure crime might have to register as a sex offender (especially with prior convictions). If you receive an indecent exposure conviction, you will be facing a class 1 misdemeanor charge, a fine of no more than $2,500, and up to 6 months in jail. A class 1 misdemeanor doesn’t come with a mandatory jail term, so you may receive up to 3 years of probation instead.

If your act of indecent exposure took place in front of someone 15 or younger, the charge escalates to a class 6 felony, which can come with up to 2 years of incarceration.

Possible Defenses for Public Urination in Arizona

The main goal of a criminal defense attorney working on an indecent exposure charge is proving that a reasonable witness to the act isn’t likely to feel alarmed or offended. Another potential defense is proving that the defendant wasn’t engaging in reckless behavior.

If you were, for example, trying to hide the fact that you were urinating (by hiding), it could be argued that you weren’t being reckless about someone seeing you. In some cases, an attorney could find procedural errors in the prosecution or show that your rights weren’t upheld.

Frequently Asked Questions on Indecent Exposure

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding indecent exposure laws:

Q: What does the state have to show to convict me for indecent exposure?

A: The prosecutor must provide sufficient evidence to the jury or judge that a reasonable person would have been alarmed or offended by your exposure. If they can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you recklessly exposed yourself and that a reasonable witness would’ve been alarmed, you may receive a conviction for the crime.

Q: What body parts count as “indecent” according to this law?

A: Under Arizona law, you’re committing indecent exposure if you show your anus, genitals, or female nipple or areola in the presence of another person and you’re reckless about whether they would be reasonably alarmed or offended by your actions.

Q: Am I still guilty of indecent exposure if nobody sees my private parts?

A: In some states, another person doesn’t have to actually see your private parts for you to be guilty of indecent exposure. However, Arizona law requires that another person is present (who would, as a reasonable person, take offense) to witness the exposure.

Q: Can someone receive a charge for indecent exposure while breastfeeding?

A: While it’s usually illegal to show body parts that are typically covered up, breastfeeding doesn’t count as indecent exposure. Even though the woman may be exposing her bare breast, a mother feeding her child is exempt from this rule.

Q: What does the law define as a “public place”?

A: Public places are legally defined as areas that are generally accessible to the public, like restaurants, parks, stores, or roads. Locations that aren’t open to everyone, like hospitals or jails, may also qualify as public locations according to the law. Exposure within more private places, such as an apartment or vehicle, might also meet the requirements for a public location if witnesses outside can see the exposure.

What to Do if You Need Help with an Indecent Exposure Charge

If an officer catches you urinating in public, it’s imperative that you take action soon. Consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is your best bet for reducing or dropping indecent exposure charges. This is a time-sensitive issue because the attorney will need some time to construct a case for you. You shouldn’t let a simple mistake impact the rest of your life. Talk to one of our legal professionals today.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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