Nude sunbathing is one of those things that you either love or you hate. For those who love it, they can be very passionate about it and will try to enjoy their pastime at any opportunity they can get. For many, this includes spending time sunbathing nude in their backyards.
Little do they know, they may be committing a criminal offence known as “wilful exposure”.
What is Wilful Exposure?
Section 9 of the Summary Offences Act (QLD) creates an offence known as “wilful exposure”. This offence says that:
A person in a public place must not wilfully expose his or her genitals, unless the person has a reasonable excuse.
In other words, you’re not legally allowed to walk down the street or lie on a public beach while knowingly showing your genitals. Most Queenslanders would rightly assume this is common sense (although there is sometimes confusion about whether it’s possible to sunbathe nude on deserted beaches etc).
Sunbathing naked while in your own private property therefore seems to be safe, since you’re not in a public place – right?
Section 9(2) continues to say that:
A person who is so near a public place that the person may be seen from the public place must not wilfully expose his or her genitals so that the person’s genitals may be seen from the public place, unless the person has a reasonable excuse.
Therefore if you are wilfully exposing your genitals while on private property but your genitals can be seen from a public place, you could be committing a wilful exposure offence.
Penalties for Wilful Exposure
If you are convicted of a wilful exposure offence, you will ordinarily face a fine of about $200. However if you wilfully exposed yourself to offend or embarrass another person, you will face a maximum fine of about $4,000 or 1 year’s imprisonment.
The consequences can therefore be extremely serious and so an offence of this type should not be treated lightly.
Are There Any Defences?
The offence itself creates a possible defence as it refers to a “reasonable excuse”. To be able to rely on this defence, an accused person would need to raise the defence in court and then the prosecution would try to negative it. If the prosecution are unable to do this, the accused should be acquitted.
The legislation itself doesn’t define the term “reasonable excuse” and therefore it is open for interpretation, however there is a useful case of Police v Wenzel  QMC 11 where the defendant was found not guilty of wilful exposure after being seen sunbathing nude on Coolum Beach by a police officer. It is worth a read to get an idea into how the courts might view what constitutes a reasonable excuse for sunbathing nude, even though in this case the alleged offence took place in a public area.
Even if it is not possible to present a defence based on reasonable excuse, the police still need to prove that the person exposed their genitals and that such exposure was wilful. If the police can’t prove these two essential elements, their case will fail.
Have You Been Charged with Wilful Exposure?
The consequences for a wilful exposure conviction are serious and can impact you long after your court case has finished. Therefore if you have been charged with wilful exposure in Queensland, for any reason at all, contact us now to speak with an expert criminal lawyer.