The Austin Police Department has announced that patrols will be increased and undercover sting operations will be utilized to deal with the growing problem of lewd behavior in Austin’s parks. Police sources say the problem has existed for years, and that they receive several complaints each week from people who are shocked by what they see.
Public lewdness and indecent exposure are defined under Texas law as follows:
“PUBLIC LEWDNESS. (a) A person commits an offense if he knowingly engages in any of the following acts in a public place or, if not in a public place, he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his: (1) act of sexual intercourse; (2) act of deviate sexual intercourse;(3) act of sexual contact; or (4) act involving contact between the person’s mouth or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or fowl.” [Penal Code § 21.07]
“INDECENT EXPOSURE. (a) A person commits an offense if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, and he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his act.” [Penal Code § 21.08]
There are many situations which fall into a gray area, but some are clearer than others. They include, for example, naked men kissing and fondling themselves in public bathrooms in the presence of children. Apparently these are not isolated instances.
Last week, just days after the APD announcement, a sting operation assisted by Austin Park Rangers took place in Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park in North Austin. While the specific acts were not reported, the incident resulted in the arrest of three men for indecent exposure (and in one case public lewdness).
You might think that the behavior covered by these statutes generally involves teenagers or young adults, but in this case the alleged offenders were between the ages of 42 and 63. These aren’t youthful pranks, and they are offenses that have serious consequences, not only for the victims, but also for the alleged offenders. While both crimes are misdemeanors, a second conviction for indecent exposure, for example, could mean lifetime sex offender registration under Article 62.001 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
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