Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Court: Women Can Be Convicted of Indecent Exposure
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Appellate Division of the Riverside Superior Court last week reversed a trial court ruling that the state indecent exposure statute applies only to men and that women are incapable of committing the crime.
In a per curiam opinion filed Aug. 28, the panel reinstated a charge of indecent exposure against Alexis Luz Garcia, reversing a decision by Judge Robert W. Armstrong to dismiss the charge on the basis that the underlying statute was gender-specific and applied only to men. Armstrong, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge, sits for several months each year on assignment in Riverside County.
Garcia’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek, said that his client, who lives in Corona, was upset because a neighborhood boy was loudly playing with a basketball despite numerous complaints.
When the boy continued to make noise, despite her advising his parents of her intention to retaliate in such a manner, Garcia exposed herself, Meronek said.
She was charged with indecent exposure, and was also charged with willfully resisting delaying, or obstructing a police officer in his official duties for refusing to open the door to her residence for a responding officer.
Armstrong dismissed the obstruction charge on Oct. 13 of last year after finding that Garcia’s refusal to leave her home when the officer had no warrant was not a violation of the Penal Code. However, after unsuccessfully attempting to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge to the lesser-included offense of disturbing the peace—which Meronek said had been offered in a plea deal earlier—the judge dismissed the charge entirely, determining that it could not apply to Garcia because the statute refers only to an individual who exposes “his” person.
Armstrong reasoned that, if the statute was intended to apply to women, it would have stated “his or her.” Conceding that Garcia may have engaged in “very silly and illegal conduct,” he maintained that her conduct did not “rise… to the level that [she] should be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.”
Reversing Armstrong and reinstating the charge, the appellate panel held that the statute was gender-inclusive under a separate code provision explaining that words in the code used in the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter.
The panel also cited a number of authorities interpreting the statute to be gender-inclusive, declaring, “we can find no logical or reasonable basis for concluding women are incapable of committing the crime of indecent exposure.”
Assistant District Attorney Matt D. Reilly told the MetNews that he thought the court came to the right decision. He advised that, once the trial court received the matter back from the appellate court, Garcia’s trial would continue where it left off.
In a statement released yesterday, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Coalition of Free Men welcomed the panel’s decision. President Marc E. Angelucci, a Torrance attorney, said, “Judge Armstrong exhibited clear anti-male sexism in his decision by applying the word ‘his’ literally to reach an absurd result and by claiming the alleged behavior does not warrant sex offender registration when he would never rule that way if the genders were reversed.”
Presiding Judge Patrick F. Magers, Judge Michele D. Levine and Judge Douglas E. Weathers all signed the Appellate Division opinion.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company