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Judges disagree over 'access' in statute

January 1, 2008
Indiana Court of Appeals judges were split in their ruling today on a man who was convicted of performance harmful to minors, with the majority affirming the conviction.

In Frederick A. Zitlaw v. State of Indiana, No. 29A05-0701-CR-35, Zitlaw appealed the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss the performance harmful to minors charge, a Class D felony. A Hamilton County sheriff's deputy saw Zitlaw expose himself in a public park. The probable cause affidavit alleged children were present in the park.

Zitlaw wanted the charge dismissed because the charging information omitted a statutory exception; the charging information didn't include the names of any of the alleged children who witnessed the indecent exposure; no minors actually heard or saw Zitlaw's actions; and the performance harmful to minors statute is unconstitutionally vague.

Judges John Sharpnack and Ezra Friedlander affirmed the trial court denial of Zitlaw's motion, ruling that interpretation of Indiana Code Section 35-49-3-3 clearly shows Zitlaw was in violation of the statute. Even though there were no minors present when he exposed himself, part of statute includes minors having "visual, auditory, or physical access." The majority of judges concluded that minors don't have to be present but only need the ability to see or hear the conduct.

However, in her dissent, Judge Patricia Riley disagreed with the majority's interpretation of "an area to which minors have visual, auditory, or physical access" because she interpreted the language of the statute to require the actual presence of minors that can see, hear, or feel the performance of the act. In fact, a "performance" of an indecent act is required under the statute, and Judge Riley concluded based on Indiana Code Article 49, that a performance requires an audience of one or more people. So, if no children were present during Zitlaw's indecent act, then no performance took place and he did not violate I.C. Section 35-49-3-3.

In her dissent, Judge Riley wrote she would reverse the trial court's decision and remand for further proceedings on the other charges against Zitlaw.
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