Find Posts By Topic

Is nudity illegal?

This is a topic that has been in the news lately.  The answer is a little more complex than simply yes or no.  There is no law against being naked.  However, there is a law against indecent exposure.  Citizens who have written the Seattle Police Department for more information on this subject have received the following letter.  It is concise and provides additional clarification on this issue.

As you know, a recent protest of nude bicyclists came through Seattle, as well as, nude bicyclists at the Fremont Solstice Parade. The perpetual enforcement question surrounding public nudity during the summer is both a legal problem and a public policy issue.
Washington’s indecent exposure law makes it a misdemeanor to “make any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.” In other words, there must be lewd or obscene behavior for an officer to take action. In order for the police to make an arrest, we must have witnesses currently in the public place where the nudity is occurring who must make a complaint. These witnesses must be willing to appear in court. Also in order to prosecute, the burden is on the government to prove that the offender was knowingly aware that their conduct created alarm and offense of others. There are, of course, incidents involving nudity in which the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is having severe mental problems and the police can take appropriate action.
Historically, it has been difficult in Seattle to prosecute cases of public nudity. The position of the police department is to take a report upon receiving a complaint, identify the individual involved, and forward the complaint to the City Attorney.
R. Gil Kerlikowske
Chief of Police