J. Bradley Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?”
Scott Wiener wants public nudity banned in San Francisco.
Mr. Wiener’s opponent in a race for a spot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is George Davis. Mr. Davis believes that nudity is free speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Yesterday he went to Times Square and stripped naked, then gave interviews in the nude while “onlookers gawked, laughed and took photos” and one man “loudly read Bible passages.”
Times Square is in Manhattan, a borough of New York City, which is 2,908 miles away from San Francisco. Mr. Davis could just as easily have come to Charlotte to strip, but if he had, he would have been arrested and he probably would not have garnered as much publicity.
Stripping naked in North Carolina would have subjected Mr. Davis to criminal penalties under state law. It is a misdemeanor for anyone to willfully expose his or her “private parts” in a public place “and in the presence of any other person or persons.” It is a felony if the exposure is made to arouse or gratify sexual desire.
State law does not define what “private parts” are, but North Carolina courts have provided an answer. In 1995, Mark Edward Fly pulled his shorts down to his ankles and bent over, exposing the “crack of his buttocks” and his “fanny” to Barbara Glover on the landing outside her condominium. He was convicted of indecent exposure, but the state Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, ruling that “private parts” means “genital organs.” Genital organs, the court observed, are those organs related to “biological reproduction.”