Open and Gross Lewdness and Lascivious Behavior

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Massachusetts Law prohibits open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior; however, the law does not provide a description of the offense. The Supreme Judicial Court has interpreted open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior to mean:


  • An individual exposed his or her genitals, buttocks, or female breasts to one or more individuals;
  • The individual did so intentionally;
  • The individual did so openly, meaning he or she intended public exposure or recklessly disregarded a substantial risk of public exposure, to other individuals who might be offended by the conduct;
  • The individual’s act was done in such a way to produce alarm or shock; and
  • One or more individuals were in fact alarmed or shocked by the exposure.


A key part to the elements of the offense is that an individual must be alarmed or shocked. Even if the government proves all the other elements, if there is no alarm or shock, it requires a verdict of not guilty. It has also been made clear that nervousness or discomfort is not enough. The individual or witness must have suffered a “serious negative emotional experience.”


One crucial note of importance is that an initial charge of open and gross lewdness or lascivious behavior does not require registration with the sex offender registry board (“SORB”); however, a subsequent charge will require registration. Open and gross lewdness or lascivious behavior, does have a lesser included offense of indecent exposure, which currently, under SORB, does not require registration. Being represented by a firm that understands the nuances of these types of charges is very important as it could have devastating effects on an individual’s life for many years, even decades. 


If you have been charged with open and gross lewdness or lascivious behavior, make sure you know your rights and get the representation you deserve; contact BISSON LAW today!