Public Indecency Definition & Examples

As the law describes, most criminal offenses identify a perpetrator and a victim, where one person does something illegal to another. Other crimes, though, are considered to have a broader impact on society and are defined as behavior that runs counter to the public order and general quality of life. These might be behaviors disturbing the peace, such as disorderly conduct, public nuisance, or offending general public morality.

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Nevada law includes a broader category of offenses defined as crimes against public decency and good morals. This includes crimes both with victims and against society as a whole. Conviction of a crime against public decency and good morals is a serious matter that requires the highest-quality legal representation. Here’s what you need to know about public indecency charges in Nevada.

Definition of Public Indecency

Public indecency is a catch-all term that describes a category of criminal offenses that the Nevada legislature describes as “contrary to public decency and good morals.” This list includes both sexual and non-sexual crimes. According to the statute, crimes against public decency and good morals include:

  • Failing to pay support to a spouse or child.
  • Neglecting children or encouraging their delinquency.
  • Concealing the birth of a child.
  • Bigamy and incest.
  • Having sex in public.
  • Intentionally transmitting HIV.
  • Lewd behavior and indecent exposure.
  • Desecrating the flag.
  • Trafficking in human organs.
  • Luring of children or luring of people who have a mental illness.

Punishment for each of these crimes varies, depending on the nature of the conduct alleged and other factors.

Can You Get Arrested for Public Indecency?

The public indecency statute in Nevada includes severe crimes, including some that are considered Class A felonies, which allow for the longest sentences under Nevada law. Others are considered gross misdemeanors and may qualify for a sentence of probation. You will be arrested if you are accused of a felony offense under the public decency and good morals statute.

If you are accused of a misdemeanor, whether you are arrested will depend on various factors, such as the other circumstances of the crime, your criminal background, and the time of day.

In both misdemeanors and felonies, you are entitled to due process under the law and representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Due process means that the government must follow specific rules and prove every element of the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt.

Las Vegas Public Indecency Arrest

Is There a Fine for Public Indecency?

In addition to prison sentences, people convicted of crimes under the public decency and good morals statute may also be assessed a fine. The fine amount will also depend on the nature of the underlying offense, the facts and circumstances involved, and the individual’s criminal history.

Intentional transmission of HIV, for instance, is considered a Class B felony, which may result in a prison sentence of between two and ten years and a fine of up to $10,000. On the other hand, a first offense for open or gross lewdness is considered a gross misdemeanor that may involve a sentence of up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.

Examples of Similar Offenses

Some offenses may seem evident as part of the public decency section of the Nevada Revised Statutes, but others may not. Here are a few examples to help explain what conduct the legislature sees as offenses against public decency and good morality.

Indecent Exposure

Under Nevada law, it is a crime to make an “open and indecent and obscene exposure” to one’s body. First offenses are considered gross misdemeanors. Subsequent violations may be upgraded to a Class D felony, including penalties of one to four years in prison.


The charge of obscenity centers around the distribution of materials such as books, pamphlets, motion pictures, and photographs that lack serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value and offensively depict sexual acts or include images of the lewd exhibition of genitals. Obscenity is considered a misdemeanor under Nevada law.

Crimes Against Religion

Someone who “willfully” disturbs a group of people gathered for religious worship in a noisy, rude, indecent, or profane way may be found guilty of a crime against religion. Nevada law makes this offense a misdemeanor.

Living Off Earnings of a Prostitute

Nevada law makes it either a Class C or a Class D felony for a person to appropriate money from the earnings of a prostitute to spend on their own living expenses. The more severe charge involves doing this by the use of force.

Engaging in Prostitution

Conventional wisdom is that Nevada is the only state in the union to legal prostitution, but that is only partially true. Prostitution is legal only in licensed brothels and is still illegal in the state’s largest jurisdictions. Violating this law is considered a misdemeanor but may be elevated to a gross misdemeanor on subsequent offenses.

Sexual Conduct with Pupils and Students

School representatives who are over the age of 21 and engage in sexual acts with a student over the age of 16 may be guilty of sexual conduct with pupils and students. Nevada law makes this a Class C felony.

Criminal Gang Recruitment

An adult who uses or threatens to use violence or other types of threats to coerce, induce or solicit a child to join a criminal gang may have committed the offense of criminal gang recruitment. This offense is considered a Class E felony.

Building a Defense Against Public Indecency

If you have been charged with public indecency, contact De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers as soon as possible for a free consultation. We will review your case’s facts and circumstances and begin preparing a robust defense. Our team includes several former government prosecutors who understand how cases are built and where they are weakest. We can provide strong representation with experienced counsel on various offenses. Contact us today for a consultation.