Last night a woman reported seeing a man exposing himself and making obscene
gestures towards her as she drove by him in her car. Shortly before 10:30 Lowell police arrested the man. He was identified by the woman shortly after the incident. The defendant, Michael Sullivan was arrested at the same location just about one week ago after police received information that Sullivan had been exposing himself. When the police arrived to investigate the first incident Sullivan's pants were down. That arrest resulted in an Indecent Exposure charge, a misdemeanor in Massachusetts. The new charges are Open and Gross Lewdness, a felony in Massachusetts. The cases are being prosecuted in the Lowell District Court.
Open and Gross Lewdness in Massachusetts is a felony. The crime is set out in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272 Section 16 which states: "A man or woman, married or unmarried, who is guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars." The proscribed conduct if conducted secretly does not amount to a violation of this statute. The crime is very close to the other crime Sullivan is charged with, Indecent Exposure however the consequences of a conviction for each differ significantly. Open and Gross is distinguished by the element of producing alarm or shock, an element necessary to sustain a conviction. The district attorney likely views Sullivan's obscene gestures as satisfying this element of the felony offense. Indecent Exposure is a crime under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272 Section 53. The maximum sentence that can be imposed for a conviction of that crime is six months in jail, making the crime a misdemeanor.
Massachusetts case law specifically states that masturbating in public constitutes a violation of the Open and Gross law. Also, there is no requirement that the body part be genitalia. Exposing one's buttocks if coupled with the other elements can result in a felony conviction. Walking in on a person performing oral sex on another person in a public place is in certain circumstances Open and Gross Lewdness. Case law has made clear that urinating in public can result in a valid conviction for this offense. The factual underpinnings of these are important details for your Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer. If properly represented these cases can be pled down to a lesser offense, dismissed or tried to an acquittal. The line between the felony charge and the misdemeanor charge is thin, thus requiring proper, experience representation. Even getting the felony continued without a finding might not be the best result in some contexts. Consult with a Sex Crimes Lawyer in Massachusetts any time you are facing charges like Mr. Sullivan.