Position Statement – 2012
Aggravated Public Lewdness
Current Public Lewdness laws provide little protection to the most common victims of Public Lewdness and sexual aggression: women and children. A person commits Public Lewdness when: 1) publically engaging in any lewd act, including intentional public exposure of the private parts of the body, or; 2) when engaging in lewdness privately under circumstances in which one could easily be observed, and where one intends to be observed. Presently, Public Lewdness – a class-B misdemeanor – has no SORA registration requirement and no enhancement for acts committed against children or for repeat offenders.
Unusually high recidivism rates amongst Public Lewdness offenders exemplify the present law’s deficiencies. According to one study, 24% of Public Lewdness offenders reoffend, more than any other type of sex offender. Moreover, 10% of Public Lewdness offenders graduate to contact sexual offenses – demonstrating that the law fails to discourage a natural progression to more serious sex offenses. Several prominent organizations – including Parents for Megan’s Law, the Crime Victims Center in Stony Brook, NY, and the Suffolk County police – have expressed deep concern about Public Lewdness’ pipeline relationship to contact sexual offenses.
Recent crimes in Albany and Long Island further demonstrate the dangers of weak Public Lewdness laws. In Albany, a level three sex offender with multiple Public Lewdness convictions was arrested for following a school bus while openly masturbating in plain view of at least 10 grade school children. Another repeat sex offender, arrested for Public Lewdness ten times prior, graduated to contact sexual aggression by molesting two 12 year-old girls in a popular children’s restaurant in Long Island. Both incidents highlight the inability of current law to prevent repeat offenses or stop repeat offenders from progressing to far more serious sex crimes.
A.10370/S.7267 remedies the current law’s deficiencies and more effectively protects victims of sexual aggression. A.10370/S.7267 creates a felony offense with enhanced penalties for repeat offenders and acts against children, and contains a much-needed public registration requirement. The availability of tougher penalties and supervision for repeat and child offenders will drastically reduce recidivism, more effectively prevent graduation to contact sex offenses, and ultimately, address a dire public safety need affecting women and children throughout the state. A.10370/S.7267 would put New York with the thirty-five states that already have sentencing enhancements or stricter offense categories for repeat offenders or child targets, including California, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, North Caronia, Indiana, and New Mexico.