City Closes Public Nudity Loophole

The new prohibition extends to all places owned by or open to the general public.

By a vote of 5 to 2, City Council approved expanding the prohibition of public nudity in the City of Fredericksburg.

Councilmen George Solley (Ward 2) and Matt Kelly (At-Large) voted against the change.

The new ordinance will allow the Commonwealth's Attorney to prosecute cases of public nudity where it cannot be shown that the defendant intended to commit an obscene act, according to Rob Eckstrom, assistant city attorney.

The City Code had only prohibited public nudity by employees of restaurants and similar establishments, according to Eckstrom.

The Virginia Code prohibits indecent exposure, which is essentially defined as exposing oneself with the intention of performing an obscene act, he said.

"The Commonwealth's Attorney [LaBravia J. Jenkins] recently had an indecent exposure case dismissed because although the defendant was nude in public, the prosecutor could not demonstrate that the defendant had performed or intended to perform an obscene act," Eckstrom said in memorandum (attached). "He simply was walking downtown with no pants and no underwear on."

"We really don’t have a significant issue," Kelly said.  "It’s more of a philosophical thing for me," he said.  "If we start making laws based on 'what if, what if,' I don’t think that’s the direction we want to go in. Why are we creating more laws and definitions with more loopholes?"

"We are just trying to prevent this from happening again," Councilor Bea Paolucci (Ward 4) said.  "Enough is enough.  It’s that simple. We are just trying to close a loophole. Let’s just vote on this."

"I do fall down on the side of precaution, it makes sense in the terms of discouraging inappropriate behavior," Brad Ellis (Ward 1), said. "I’ll support it on the second read."

The new ordinance, Ordinance 13-01, is modeled after 30 others in Virginia, which have withstood court challenges, Eckstrom said.

It extends to “all outdoor places owned by or open to the general public, and all buildings, structures and enclosed places owned by or open to the general public . . .”

"The ordinance contains exceptions necessary to protect legitimate First Amendment Activity and breastfeeding mothers," Eckstrom said.

Eckstrom said the case of the naked man downtown was not the only complaint  within the last two years.  "Other recent incidents include a complaint to the police about a man swimming nude in the river (suspect unknown), a woman exposing her breasts to a police officer in Market Square (case not prosecuted due to the lack of lascivious intent), and a complaint to police about a man in the hallway of Riverwood Apartments wearing a shirt but no pants or underwear (no arrest made due to lack of lascivious intent)," Eckstrom said.

The law goes into effect immediately.

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Matthew Kelly January 23, 2013 at 10:57 PM
A bit more detail on the issue: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Matt-Kelly/232135346866812#!/pages/Friends-of-Matt-Kelly/232135346866812
Eric Hennessey January 24, 2013 at 03:57 AM
I'm just glad to hear the city council has run out of problems to solve.
1Ronald January 24, 2013 at 04:52 PM
No. One major problem is the need for a new Court complex. Because of the wild-eyed zeal of passing "what if" laws. Is Matt Kelly the only thinking man on Council? And you, Brad? Why did you abandon ship on this when you joined Matt on this last weeki? Another passing thought that could land the city in hot water with the right person and the right circumstance.
1Ronald January 24, 2013 at 05:01 PM
I have lived here for many years and have never seen a naked person downtown. But, then again 1013 Princess Anne St was always a restaurant before it became law offices BEFORE a church was allowed to seize the property--take it away fromf taxable property--and turn it into a hardcore homeless shelter. If I was an elected Council member, duly representing my constituents and their best interests, I would Micah some changes. I would declare "1013" a public nuisance, close it down, and cull the statutes for any relief that would allow confiscation of the property. I strongly question the City Attorney's reading of appellant cases that somehow?caused her to agree with this new law. The issue is intent. Only intent. And when you shut the door on intent you open the door to potential massive litigation that the City Attorney, in my opinion, is incapable of handling. I say "potential" because sooner or later, you're going to see this law tested either voluntarily or from an act of innocence.
1Ronald January 24, 2013 at 05:27 PM
I would like to take this oppotunity to thank both Matt and George for bringing some common sense into this melee of knee-jerk, shoot from the hip, reactions. It is this sort of foolishness that clogs our court systems and creates an undue burden on scarce revenue sources that must fund someone else's emotional angst that serves no useful purpose. And then they might wonder why we, as a city, are rapidly going broke. Chasing windmills in the form of street bums instead of eradicating the problem altogether.


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