Sunday, October 25, 2009

No right to privacy for nudie?

I saw this story last week but didn't get a chance to write anything about it.

A Springfield, Virginia man is being charged with indecent exposure for being naked in his own home. Apparently a woman was walking her young son to school and crossed the 'offender's' yard, and saw him naked through a window as he was making morning coffee in his own kitchen. She complained and the cops came and arrested the man.

My first thought was how ridiculous it was for the cops to actually arrest and then charge someone for nudity in his own home. What is this, Victorian England? My next thought was how incredibly selfish (and prudish) this woman must be to believe her rights to not be offended supersede the privacy rights of someone else minding their own business in their own home. I then wondered why this dame wasn't being charged with trespassing... More on that later. No doubt this story would be vastly different if the watcher was a man and the watchee had been a woman.

Of course, I realize that there could be extenuating circumstances. But from what has been available in the reporting I've seen it looks open and shut to me. The guy was in his own home and has a presumed right to privacy. He was not in a public place. The video footage from local news coverage showed the view from outside the home, in the dark of night. There would have been nothing unreasonable in someone being naked in that room with the window & doors uncovered as they were.

The woman and her son were technically trespassing on his property and, again, were not in a public place. Whether intentional or not, she looked through his window and would have seen only a glimpse of the man unless she stopped to gawk. As far as I'm concerned, by trespassing and looking toward the open window of a private residence she forfeit any legitimate claims she might have to seeing something offensive in a more public setting. It's not enough to say, 'I can see you from outside the house' as the responsibility then falls back on them, 'Well, why were you looking through my windows into my house?'.

To me the solutions is quite simple, don't trespass on someone's property and don't look in their windows. If you do, then don't complain about what you see. Problem solved.

Now I'm not sure what the law is there in Virginia, but I know what the law shouldn't be. There should not be a burden placed on individuals that at no time will their actions from within the reasonable privacy of their own home cause any offense to those outside their home. The emphasis on reasonable here is quite intentional. In other words, you can't legally masturbate to passers-by on the street through an open bay window in a well-lit room and claim 'I didn't know anyone could see me'. However, you can certainly make coffee in your kitchen in the nude with an open curtain and legitimately claim that no offense was intended when someone happened to look while passing by.

Ultimately the burden of proof should be placed on the 'offended' party to prove that the 'offender' was aware that his or her actions was offensive and/or publicly viewable. In summation, they are going to have to prove intent here, and from what I've seen that is doing to be very difficult to do.


In closing, there were a few things about this incident that I found quite interesting. First, the police are apparently claiming that the man wanted to be seen naked. My response: How the hell do they know? Is there a history of this? Has there been other complaints about the man or the property? Did the man in some way draw attention to himself so he would be seen? Sorry, but just being naked in itself doesn't qualify. Outside of one of these being the case I don't see how one can make such an accusation.

The cops claim there may have been another incident involving the accused and so they're asking people to come forward. I find it quite convenient to imply that there have been other incidents and then seeking evidence which might support this. Whatever happened to cops reaching conclusions based on actual evidence rather than reaching conclusions based on hypothetical evidence?

It appears to me that the cops really want a case here and so, as often happens, they threw out an accusatory statement for which there is probably no proof, only convenient assumption. Part of this may be that losing a case like this would be rather embarrassing for local law enforcement. Of course, winning such a case should be rather embarrassing as well. In any event, I finally figured out why the cops didn't charge the woman with trespassing (or at least drop the case given those circumstances) and why they are actually seeking prosecution: the 'victim' here is the wife of a cop.

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