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Court rules on 'nude in front yard' case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Though the front yard of your home may not be considered a "public place," state law prohibits you from standing there naked because that nudity would be visible from a public street or sidewalk, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In Chad A. Weideman v. State of Indiana, No. 87A01-0801-CR-51, a unanimous three-judge panel determined that Indiana's public nudity statute, Indiana Code Section 35-45-4-1.5(c), is not unconstitutionally vague, but the state failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that a Warrick County man committed public nudity.

Weideman was charged with the Class B misdemeanor following an incident June 10, 2006. Two neighbors went out to their vehicle after dark and saw Weideman standing nude in his front yard near their fence. Shining the truck headlights at him, they saw Weideman with a look of panic or surprise on his face and he immediately dropped to the ground and rolled into a nearby ditch, then crawled back to his property. The neighbors called police and Weideman was later charged, found guilty at a bench trial, and sentenced to a year of probation.

On appeal, Weideman argued the public nudity statute was unconstitutional because the term "public place" is ambiguous or vague, so much so that "a reasonable person would not be apprised that he could not be nude under the cover of darkness in the front yard of his private residence."

The state statute provides that "a person who knowingly or intentionally appears in a public place in a state of nudity with the intent to be seen by another person commits a Class B misdemeanor." In analyzing the statute and terminology, the court opted to use a definition used by the Indiana Supreme Court in the context of the former public indecency statute of 1979 - that it means "any place where the public is invited or free to go upon special or implied invitation; a place available to all or a certain segment of the public."

While he wasn't standing in a public place when seen, Weideman did appear nude in a place where the public could see him, the court concluded.

"We conclude that the public nudity statute prohibits knowingly or intentionally being visibly nude to persons in a public place," Judge Patricia Riley wrote. "This would include being nude in your front yard or neighbor's front yard if you are visible to a sidewalk or road. Further, we conclude that the statute provides notice enabling ordinary people to understand the conduct that it prohibits, and it does not encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement."

However, the court did agree with Weideman on a point that the state didn't provide sufficient evidence that he had a specific intent to be seen nude. The court reversed his conviction and instructed the trial court to enter a new judgment for a lesser misdemeanor charge, which provides for a sentence of up to 60 days.
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