Belated Halloween Edition

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As a runner and a criminal lawyer, I found this story irresistable. The short version is that the police in Boulder, Colorado decided to stamp out the Naked Pumpkin Run, a Halloween tradition that involves 150 men and women wearing nothing but Jack-o-Lanterns on their heads running four blocks through downtown Boulder. I don’t know the first thing about Colorado law, but the story makes it sound like the decision by the police is legally questionable, as well as being opposed by virtually every elected official in the city. Nonetheless, the threat of being charged with indecent exposure, and ultimately of being required to register as a sex offender, seems to have put an end to the run. (Hat tip: Volokh Conspiracy.)

In order to render this post at least faintly useful, I’ll note that a person participating in such a run in North Carolina would clearly violate our indecent exposure statute, G.S. 14-190.9, which may sweep more broadly than Colorado’s. Our statute creates two crimes. The more serious one is a Class H felony for adults who expose themselves in a public place and in the presence of a person under 16, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire. (That sort of behavior, in at least some circumstances, might also be a Class F felony under the indecent liberties statute, G.S. 14-202.1.) Since the Pumpkin Run takes place late at night when trick-or-treaters have presumably gone home, and since there’s apparently nothing overtly sexual about the undertaking, I doubt that runners would be committing a felony under North Carolina law.

However, they’d be committing a Class 2 misdemeanor. That crime is committed, with a few exceptions not relevant here, by “any person who shall willfully expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place and in the presence of any other person or persons.” Misdemeanor indecent exposure doesn’t require registration as a sex offender, though, so in that regard, a Pumpkin Runner here would apparently have less to worry about than the ones in Boulder.

One comment on “Belated Halloween Edition

  1. I know this is an ancient post, but I just stumbled across it while searching for the North Carolina indecent exposure statutes. I think it’s ridiculous that men can hang out topless at the beach, but if I were to do it I would be guilty of a crime. Someone told me that in North Carolina there is no law against topless sunbathing, so I was trying to find out for sure. I don’t want to go topless at the beach this summer and get myself arrested. I did find GS 14-190 which simply says it’s against the law to expose one’s private parts, but 14-190 doesn’t define “private parts”. Then I found this article about a case called “North Carolina v. Jones”. It was appealed in 1970, and the appellate court seems to say that it’s not illegal for a woman to expose her breasts. The appeals court decision ends by saying “We are of the opinion, and so hold, that the exposure by a female of her breasts to the public view in a public place is not an offense under G.S. 14-190.”

    So, what does that mean? Can I go topless at the beach or not? Does anyone here know?

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