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Indecent Act / Indecent Exposure

Region: Ontario Answer # 1848

In Section 173 of the Criminal Code, Indecent Act and Indecent Exposure are two separate and distinct offences. There are both considered to be sexual offences in nature.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.


Indecent Act

Indecent Act, Section 173(1) refers to:

  • performing a sexual act in public in the presence of one or more persons.

As well, an Indecent Act can be committed in the same fashion in private if it is proven that the act was performed with intent to insult or offend any person. Most of the charges that arise under this subsection relate to men exposing themselves to a non-consenting adult.

The maximum punishment for an Indecent Act conviction is:

  • a jail term up-to 6 months if the Crown proceeds by summary, or

  • a jail term up-to two years if the Crown proceeds by indictment.

This type of behavior, if proven, can usually be successfully treated. A criminal defence lawyer with experience representing clients with mental health issues can make an initial determination whether the accused may suffer from a mental illness or mental disorder that may be amenable to treatment. The accused person will then be assessed by a psychiatrist, who can provide a report to the court giving an opinion as to whether the accused has a mental disorder of exhibitionism, and what treatment, if any, will reduce his risk to reoffend. In most cases, a favourable report from a psychiatrist will help the accused to avoid a criminal conviction. However, if they have been fingerprinted and photographed by the police they will still have some form of a criminal record that will need to be removed.

Indecent Exposure

An Indecent Exposure charge under Section 173(2) of the Code means that the person charged is accused of exposing their genital organs to a person under the age of 16. Because this offence involves a minor, it is more serious than an Indecent Act charge.

The minimum penalty for an Indecent Exposure conviction is 90 days in jail, and a maximum penalty of two years (if the Crown proceeds by indictment). If the Crown proceeds by summary conviction, the minimum punishment is 30 days in jail, up-to 6 months maximum. In addition, as a result of the conviction, the accused will be a registered sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.

With a favourable assessment and report from a psychiatrist, an experienced criminal defence lawyer may be able to have the charge reduced to Indecent Act, and the accused will then avoid being convicted of a crime as well as avoiding a minimum jail sentence. However, as with an Indecent Act offence, if the accused has been fingerprinted and photographed by the police they will still have some form of a criminal record that will need to be removed.

A psychiatric assessment will again address the issue of risk, however, there will be an additional focus on whether the accused has the mental disorder of pedophilia. This type of behavior is also treatable, and the risk to reoffend is usually less than with an accused convicted of a sexual assault-type offence, as Indecent Act and Indecent Exposure offences are considered to be non-contact offences.

Get Help


If you have a criminal record and want to erase it, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a crime, a criminal defence lawyer experienced in representing people charged with a sexual offence will understand how best to defend you. The penalties for sexual offences vary widely. If you have been charged with assault, or any criminal offence, and need to hire a criminal defence lawyer, contact one of our preferred criminal law expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers.

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