Nakedly silly prosecution

Photo courtesy of
‘no mires 2 / don’t look 2’
courtesy of ‘tutescin’

Think being alone in your house means you can let it all hang out with impunity? Think again, at least in Fairfax. Springfield resident Eric Williamson was arrested and charged with indecent exposure… in his kitchen. The WTOP article quotes an attorney about what he thinks the prosecutors will have to prove to make their case. From a look at the relevant VA code it looks even harder than he makes it sound.

Every person who intentionally makes an obscene display or exposure of his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where others are present, or procures another to so expose himself, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Aside from the challenge of proving that it was intentional, the definition of obscene in the code is as follows:

The word “obscene” where it appears in this article shall mean that which, considered as a whole, has as its dominant theme or purpose an appeal to the prurient interest in sex, that is, a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, excretory functions or products thereof or sadomasochistic abuse, and which goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters and which, taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

That seems like a challenge to apply to someone making coffee in the buff.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


5 thoughts on “Nakedly silly prosecution

  1. Let’s have a thought experiment.

    What do you suppose would have happened if we simply reversed the genders and supposed that it was a man who was trespassing on someone else’s property at 5:30 in the morning, and looking in the windows of a private residence at a naked woman?

    Who do you suppose would have been arrested in that instance?

    The answer is, the man of course, for being a Peeping Tom.

    So why is the outcome reversed in this case? Does Virginia not have Peeping Tom laws? Remember it was the woman who was trespassing on Williamson’s property and looking through his windows into his private residence at an ungodly hour. Why wasn’t she arrested for her voyeurism?

  2. Something to keep in mind about ‘The Law’: you can cite the Virginia Code until you’re blue in the face, but what matters is Precedent: the sum total of all rulings under any law are what determine the actual, practical meaning of the law. Basically, this law says that a set of actions constitutes a specific class of violation (class 1 misdemeanor). Precedent will probably widen that set of actions to include other behavior otherwise unanticipated or unspecified by the legislation.

    What does this mean? It means that Eric Williamson may have bigger problems than a strict reading of the law might otherwise indicate.

    (No, IANAL, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.)

  3. However, precedent matters more at the level of the Supreme Court than district courts. I really can’t see how they can convict a man who was being spied on. I live a couple blocks down from this guy, and now I have to think about what I’m doing in my own house because these sick, perverted women might be looking in my windows. Very unnerving.

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