People v. Vronko: Does Anyone Have to Actually See You for an Indecent Exposure Conviction?

The Michigan Court of Appeals in the case of People v. Vronko discusses the issue of whether an exposure must actually be witnessed by another person fora conviction of the indecent exposure law.

What Does the Indecent Exposure Statute Say?

A person shall not knowingly make any open or indecent exposure of his or her person or of the person of another. This is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Further, an indecent exposure where the private parts are fondled is a high-court misdemeanor, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. MCL 750.335a.

The Facts of the Case

Mr. Vronko was in his vehicle, in an area with two elementary schools in the neighborhood. Children walked on either side of the vehicle. At Mr. Vronko’s bench trial, a witness testified that his hand was going up and down in his private parts area “like gangbusters.” The witness did not see what was in Mr. Vronko’s hands, but could see that his legs were bare. The witness never saw what was in Mr. Vronko’s hands nor saw any schoolchildren react to Mr. Vronko.

Legal Issues for the Court

Mr. Vronko was convicted at his bench trial. On appeal he had two arguments.

The first argument was that the indecent exposure statute was unconstitutional because it was too vague. A statute is unconstitutionally vague if the behavior to be criminalized cannot be ascertained by a reading of the statute. The Court went on to breakdown the statute for the defendant. While the statute is referred to as the indecent exposure statute, a defendant can be convicted of either an “open” exposure or an “indecent” exposure.

Open – exposed to general view or knowledge, having no protective covering, and to disclose or expose to view.

Exposure – Disclosure to view, especially of something shameful or criminal

Indecent – grossly unseemly or offensive to manners or morals

Indecent exposure –  an intentional exposure of part of one’s body (as the private parts, genitals) in a place where such exposure is likely to be an offense against the generally accepted standards of decency in a community.

The Court did not believe the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and that the meaning of the language within the statute was straightforward and easily ascertained by readers.

Defendant’s Second Argument on Appeal

The Defendant’s second argument was that he was convicted on insufficient evidence. The defendant argued that the witness never actually saw his penis, and there was no evidence that anyone else saw an exposure.

The Court recognized that the issue of whether an exposure must be actually witnessed by another person for a conviction of indecent exposure was an issue of first impression. The Court also recognized that the indecent exposure statute does not contain language regarding a witness to the exposure.

Read our recent ArborYpsi Law articles: Michigan Moves Closer to Eliminating Pit Bull Bans, Michigan Makes Anti-Depressants a Controlled Substance, and Will Michigan See Legal Weed in 2018?

The Court answered the question with this standard from an older case: An open exposure is one where there is a substantial risk of another person seeing the exposure of the private parts. The question is whether a defendant’s exposure took place in a setting where anyone might have reasonably been expected to observe the exposure, and if so, whether the person seeing the exposure might have been expected to be offended by what was seen.

Takeaways from the Case

The Court’s holding in this case was this: There is no requirement that the defendant’s exposure actually be witnessed by another person in order to constitute open or indecent exposure, so long as the exposure occurred in a public place under circumstances in which another person might reasonably have been expected to observe it.

A reader of the case can learn from the indecent exposure statute that the exact exposure does not necessarily need to be witnessed – the question is whether the exposure could reasonably have been witnessed by someone else. This means we look to the setting of the exposure.

In analyzing an indecent exposure case, it is important to look at the setting to determine what the possibilities and expectations were.

Call us at 734.883.9584

Call Sam Bernstein at 734.883.9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor Attorney who specializes in Criminal Defense.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

Learn More

ArborYpsi Law

Our practice focuses on criminal defense. Criminal defense is not one of many areas we practice – it’s all we do. Whether you are charged with indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, drunk driving, or larceny, we can help.

Ann Arbor Drunk Driving Attorney

At ArborYpsi Law a major focus of our practice is on representing people charged with operating while intoxicated and operating while visibly impaired crimes. These are more common than ever. Police officers are specially trained to be on the lookout for drivers who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

At ArborYpsi Law we are not content with simply holding our clients hands while they plead guilty. Our approach is proactive – we challenge cases whenever the client wishes to go that route. In the last year we have taken OWI cases to trial and challenged cases by pre-trial motions.

As OWI cases are charged more the legislature continuously makes the sanctions more onerous and makes it easier than ever for prosecutors to obtain convictions. Gone are the days where a person might walk into the court with an OWI charge and walk out with a careless driving civil infraction. In fact, many prosecutors are unwilling or unable by policy to even reduce a standard operating while intoxicated charge into an operating while visibly impaired to save you the driver’s license sanctions. You need a lawyer who is willing to challenge the case and motivated to put in the work necessary to fight a case. ArborYpsi Law will do this for you.

Read More on DUI Law

Washtenaw County Criminal Defense

ArborYpsi Law is based in Ann Arbor, across the street from the 14A-1 District Court that serves Pittsfield Township. We are a local law firm dedicated to the residents of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti (hence the name of the firm), and surrounding cities and townships.

Free Initial Consultation

Have you been charged with a DUI or other crime such as assault and batter or domestic violence. Call us today, we will meet, and immediately put into place a plan of action to fight your case. Don’t go it alone, get representation from a criminal defense lawyer who is willing and able to go the distance for you.

Call 734.883.9584 to Speak with a Criminal Lawyer in Ann Arbor Today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *