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Can I Get in Legal Trouble for Being Nude in My Own Home?

If your neighbors happen to spot you prancing around naked in your apartment, your true intentions are crucial

I’d argue that the primary purpose of having your own place is to be nude (and free) whenever you want. I know that taking off my clothes is the very first thing I do when I arrive home from work — before checking whether my living room windows, which face a busy L.A. street, are covered. And so, I’m sure I’ve given some people waiting for the bus or picking up Thai takeout a good show, and to them I say, “You’re welcome!” 

After all, it seems like my right to be naked in my own home. But according to the “law,” that’s not necessarily the case. “If it’s done intentionally, then it could be charged. If it’s by accident, it wouldn’t be charged,” says Louis Shapiro, a criminal defense attorney in L.A. In other words, the legality of being seen nude in your place all comes down to intent.

In California specifically, it’s illegal to participate in “lewd” or “dissolute” acts in public or in a place exposed to public view. Fortunately, though, existing in a state of unclothed-ness doesn’t inherently qualify as a lewd or dissolute act (per California penal code, “lewd” and “dissolute” have the same meaning). In order for my birthday suit to be considered lewd in a home setting, I’d need to be flaunting it for the purposes of sexual gratification, offense or annoyance. I’d need to be mid-intercourse (with a partner or by myself), or otherwise mooning pedestrians to hit those marks.

But there’s yet more room for the good ol’ context of intent. Say it’s mid-afternoon, my blinds are partially open and my boo and I find ourselves engaging in some coitus in our living room, as we pay rent to do. Perhaps someone happens to walk by at juuust the right angle allowing them to peek through the blinds and catch a glimpse of some reproductive organs. If they wanted to call the cops (and, like, get a life), there’s a chance the police would indeed try to charge us with a lewd act. However, because public exposure wasn’t an intended part of our romp-session, the charges might not hold up in a court of law. 

Basically, when you’re spotted nude at home, it all comes down to whether or not you’re trying to be seen. 

And even then, in some states, you can fully have your wang out on your front porch and the cops can’t really do much about it. In North Carolina, neighbors of one frequently-nude man have been calling the police on him for over a decade. Despite sitting completely bare-assed on his front porch, no charges have occurred because he did so on his own private property without intent for sexual gratification or arousal. However, in California, this man’s frequent nudity could result in a misdemeanor charge if it annoys and offends his neighbors. In Texas, a similar misdemeanor charge would apply

Meanwhile, if you live in a particularly tony suburb or a large apartment building, there may be Homeowners’ Association rules or stipulations in your lease prohibiting behaviors like grabbing the paper or gazing out your window while naked. Even if there’s not, if you’re often the recipient of complaints about your nudity, a new rule might be written in your honor.

So just try to remember that being nude is truly one of life’s divine freedoms, but sexually harassing your neighbors is not. Fortunately, the line between good nudity and bad nudity is essentially divided by an axiom of common sense that can apply to all of life’s conundrums: Don’t be a perv.