Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, said on Wednesday that Maryland’s indecent exposure laws must be expanded to include touching oneself sexually in public while fully clothed.
“We’ve got a small problem on Metro… Under current law if you … expose your genitalia, you are subject to arrest. It’s true in D.C. and it’s true in Virginia and in Metro system crimes throughout all three jurisdictions.” However, if someone touches oneself while still fully clothed, “it is still illegal in Virginia and D.C. under their indecent exposure statutes, but it’s not illegal in Maryland,” Waldstreicher said at a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing.
“This bill would add masturbation that is not exposing the genitals to our indecent exposure statutes so that the WMATA [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] police — who do a great job of keeping us safe in the system in Montgomery and Prince George’s County — can arrest just like they can in Virginia and in D.C.”
Waldstreicher spoke in favor of SB0515-Crimes-Indecent Exposure-Elements. The legislation would, according to its text, establish that: “the offense of indecent exposure prohibits a person from, in public, intentionally making an obscene or indecent exposure … engaging in a certain act of masturbation, or engaging in a certain sexual act; etc.”
Waldstreicher said he wants to amend some of the language in the bill.
“The bill was a little more over-inclusive than I intended. The way I think I would like to amend the bill…would be to say…’indecent exposure includes a person in public engaging in the act of masturbation whether or not a person’s genitalia are exposed.”‘
Chairman William Smith, D-Montgomery, attempted to portray the problem in a humorous light.
“I knew there was a reason I stopped riding the Metro.”
However, Smith clarified that he was just joking.
“I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Everyone should ride Metro. It’s clean. It’s safe. It’s fine. It’s the best way to get around town.”
Sen. Chris West, R-Baltimore County, asked Waldstreicher if the legislation would apply to acts of indecent exposure that occur during entertainment.
“My wife and I go to theatre fairly frequently. And over the years…there has been nudity on the stage. And, I was looking at your bill, as originally written — which says ‘a person may not in public intentionally make an obscene or indecent exposure of a person’s genitalia or anus.’ I just wanted to get you to confirm…that by using the words ‘obscene’ or ‘indecent’ you would not be including such exposure incidents as theatrical entertainment.”
Waldstreicher said that the legislation would not apply to acts of entertainment and that the amendment would further clarify that.
“I think as drafted, the ‘obscene’ or ‘indecent’ would exclude a public performance. But nonetheless, I believe that under the amendment as proposed — that language is coming out — and specifically targeted masturbation whether the genitalia are exposed or not.”
Waldstreicher said both he and his wife have witnessed acts of indecent exposure on Metro.
“It’s not the end of the world when it happens. But it shouldn’t be happening.”
Kevin Gaddis, deputy chief of the Metro Transit Police Department, testified in favor of the legislation. He said it is needed because police powers are often hindered when jurisdictions that are close in proximity have different criminal statutes.
“Our police officers patrol in all three jurisdictions. They have full police powers in all three jurisdictions — on all WMATA facilities. So, we use the local jurisdiction’s laws that we enforce. Occasionally, there’s a time when what someone assumes is the law in all three jurisdictions — is not the case.”