Nashville has more than 180 music venues in addition to the venerable Grand Ole Opry House and Ryman Auditorium. The Music City hosts concerts, festivals and events year-round that attract both Tennessee residents and visitors. Unfortunately, visitors to Tennessee sometimes make costly, inconvenient mistakes such as using drugs, driving drunk or breaking the law in other ways.

One common but somewhat embarrassing reason tourists get arrested in Nashville and around Tennessee is public indecency. This is particularly common at big outdoor festivals such as Bonnaroo, where long lines for bathrooms can frustrate some otherwise law-abiding people to use “alternative facilities.” There are also instances where people engage in a more sexual form of indecency.

If you’ve been arrested for public indecency or its more serious cousin, indecent exposure, don’t panic — and don’t allow embarrassment to stop you from contacting an attorney for help. A good criminal defense lawyer won’t judge you. Your attorney is on your side and will work to protect your best interests.

Public indecency is essentially defined as appearing nude in public (with genitals, female areolae or even a covered erect penis visible); fondling one’s genitals or another’s in public; or knowingly engaging in any type of sex, masturbation, flagellation or excretory function for sexual gratification where it can be seen by others.

However, you have a defense to a public indecency charge if you were:

  • Not in a public place (you were in an enclosed, single-sex bathroom, for example, or a licensed clothing-optional facility)
  • Relieving yourself in an unincorporated part of Tennessee and were trying to conceal yourself from public view
  • Breastfeeding
  • Modeling nude for an art class
  • Performing nude in a theater production with serious artistic merit

A first or second offense of public indecency is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine. If you’ve committed a third offense, the charge is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $1,500 fine and up to 11 months, 29 days in jail.

Public indecency charges are relatively common, if a bit awkward to explain. If you were caught relieving yourself outside, in a state of undress or engaging in a public sex act, a lawyer can help you minimize the negative consequences. And, if you have been arrested for public indecency, a lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced.