Indecent Conduct Crimes in Minnesota

By Thomas C Gallagher, Minneapolis indecent Conduct Attorney

Prosecutors charge people with “Indecent Conduct” crimes regularly.  Normally they  file criminal charges in a written Complaint.

light breaks through the darkness

But police officers can tab charge a person with a misdemeanor crime, subject to later review by a prosecutor.  We’ve seen people charged with “Indecent Conduct” crimes both ways.

Indecent conduct and indent exposure charges can cite many different laws.  A Minnesota Statute, or  a local city ordinance can be used.  And different sections within the Minnesota Statutes and city ordinances can be used.  A good indecent conduct attorney will help identify the laws and defenses.

Some common fact patterns for these cases follow.

Indecent Conduct in a Public Place (or Private Place)

An indecent conduct attorney pays attention to the place.

Minnesota Statutes Section 617.23, subd. 1 “Indecent Exposure” creates a misdemeanor crime for a person who willfully and lewdly exposes the person’s body or their private parts, procures another to expose private parts, or engages in open or gross lewdness or lascivious behavior – in a public place or any place where others are present.

Minnesota Statutes Section 609.72, subd. 1(3) “Disorderly Conduct” creates a misdemeanor crime for a person who engages in obscene conduct tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others – in a public or private place.  Prosecutors charge “indecent conduct” under this statute.  Like other “Disorderly Conduct crimes,” the reaction of other people is relevant.  That others took no offense can be a defense.

Our standard differs for strip clubs, art events and theaters.  What we consider lewd exposure or “lewdness or lascivious behavior” depends upon context.  The First Amendment Right to Free Speech and Expression protects speech and conduct some might think “indecent.”

A sign that nudity is natural & healthy
A sign that nudity is natural & healthy

We have successfully defended nude sunbathers ticketed at an isolated, posted nude beach on First Amendment grounds.  And we’ve won for topless female sunbathers on Equal Protection grounds.

A good indecent conduct attorney examines the evidence of place, whether other people were present, and context.

We can find winning defenses in the statutes charged, the U.S. Constitution and Minnesota Constitution, as well as the facts of each case.

Indecent Conduct in the Presence of a Minor under 16

Minnesota Statutes Section 609.3451, subd. 1 “Criminal Sexual Conduct 5th Degree” creates a Gross Misdemeanor crime for “masturbation or lewd exhibition of the genitals in the presence of a minor under the age of 16, knowing or having reason to know the minor is present.”  This one requires “genitals.”

Minnesota Statutes Section 617.23, subd. 2 “Indecent Exposure” creates a Gross Misdemeanor crime for a person who – in the presence of a minor under the age of 16 – willfully and lewdly exposes the person’s body or their private parts, procures another to expose private parts, or engages in open or gross lewdness or lascivious behavior – in a public place or any place where others are present.

You indecent conduct attorney examines whether a child under 16 was present.  If so, we consider “was the behavior was lewd?,” “were private parts visible?,” and “did the accused have reason to know?”


In many situations one’s appearance or behavior may not be considered “lewd” or “lascivious” depending upon context.  Showering at a health club is an example.  Nudity alone is not sexual.  Sexuality alone is not “lewd.”

City Ordinances

An experienced indecent conduct attorney sees prosecutions under City Ordinances.

Psyche revived by the kiss of love.
Psyche revived by the kiss of love.

Minneapolis Ordinance Section 385.160, “Indecent conduct” creates a misdemeanor crime:

“No person, in any public place shall engage in, or offer or attempt to engage in:
(a)   Lewd or lascivious conduct;
(b)   Sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct;
(c)   The indecent or lascivious exposure or use of the human body, or any part thereof; or
(d)   Fondling the unclothed genitals of himself or herself or another person.”

City ordinances vary, but there are similar ordinances in many cities.  Compared to state statutes, city ordinances are sometimes unconstitutionally broad.

Police have tab charged this against a couple making out in a car in a neighborhood targeted for intolerant policing.  This often results in racially disparate-impacts.  They have also used these type of ordinances to harass people they suspect of prostitution, but lack evidence for a prostitution charge.

Your indecent conduct attorney can explain the difference between a city ordinance vs. a state statute charge.

Cities have targeted strip clubs and strippers with “Indecent Conduct” types of criminal charges.  But the First Amendment protects theatrical performances.

Gay Targeting and Police Stings sometimes result in these kinds of criminal charges.  The 2007 high-profile case of U.S. Senator Larry Craig appears a case in point.  Police had set up a “sting” in a men’s restroom at MSP airport to catch men engaging in homosexual activity.  Police have set up stings in adult bookstores over the years, as well.

“How can you defend people accused of these crimes?”

Thomas Gallagher, Minneapolis Indecent Conduct Attorney
Thomas Gallagher, Minneapolis Indecent Conduct Attorney

Gallagher wants to help people facing a difficult situation.  Wrongly accused or not, the accusation alone causes suffering.  Part of the reason is our social stigma still surrounding human sexuality.  These issues are not new, as we discuss in our article: Jesus as Criminal Defense Lawyer: The Woman Accused of Adultery.

Keeping your record clean is the goal most have.

Have a question about a case?  Be sure to give Indecent Conduct Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher a call about it.

Question?  You can call Minneapolis Indecent Conduct Attorney Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500