No Sex Discrimination in California Criminal Charges

By: Gerri L. Elder

In Southern California, an appeals court has reinstated a criminal charge of indecent exposure against a woman who stripped down to nothing outside her home to display her naked body, she says, in order to punish her loud 14-year-old neighbor.

The appeals panel of three judges has overturned a previous ruling by Judge Robert W. Armstrong of the Riverside County Superior Court. Judge Armstrong had dismissed the indecent exposure criminal charge against the woman, Alexis Luz Garcia, last year and ruled that the law which makes it a misdemeanor crime to expose “his person” does not apply to “her person,” or women in general, for that matter.

Perhaps Judge Armstrong doesn’t find female nudity offensive, but Garcia’s neighbors, the parents of a 14-year-old boy, do have certain valid objections to it.

The three judges of the appeals panel decided on August 28th that exposure of female body parts is just as much a criminal offense as the exposure of male body parts. They noted that another section of California state law indicates that “words used in the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter.”

In their 13-page decision the appellate court judges wrote, “We can find no logical or reasonable basis for concluding women are incapable of committing the crime of indecent exposure.”

The alleged incident happened in 2006 when Garcia’s 14-year-old neighbor was outside of his home playing basketball. Garcia says that he was making too much noise and she complained about it. When he continued to be loud and her complaining did no good she allegedly decided on a drastic measure to quiet him down. The boy’s parents reported to police that Garcia came outside on her sundeck and stripped all of her clothes off in front of the boy and threatened to do the same any time that he disturbed her with his noise.

Full frontal female nudity – what a novel punishment idea for a 14-year-old boy!

When police arrived at Garcia’s home to speak with her about the incident, she reportedly refused to open the door to talk to them. She was arrested and charged with willfully resisting a police officer in addition to the indecent exposure charge.

Garcia’s criminal defense attorney for the appeal was Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek. The prosecution was handled by Deputy District Attorney Matt Reilly who said that the decision of the appeals panel “reinforces that both men and women need to be treated equally under the law.”

So the criminal charge against Garcia will be reinstated and she will need a criminal defense attorney again, as she will be forced to stand trial for the indecent exposure charge. If convicted, she will face up to a year in the county jail and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.

It is relatively certain that the teenager next door will continue to play basketball and make noise outside his home.