The Pine Cone's sixth story of the week

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Skinny dippers spotted, police summoned ... but was that the right call?

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published: August 27, 2010

THREE MONTEREY Peninsula residents were arrested Tuesday night for indecent exposure after they went skinny dipping in Carmel Bay on an unusually warm evening — and were caught bare by a family having a party on the beach — according to police.

Carmel Police Sgt. Mel Mukai said a 29-year-old Carmel man and two 32-year-olds from Pacific Grove shucked their clothes and entered the water near Scenic and 10th. The men were naked, and the woman was topless.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Aug. 24, “as they were leaving the water, there was a large family gathering, and one of the parents was obviously appalled and decided to call us,” Mukai said.

Officers responded and found the alleged skinny dippers on the beach still nude, clutching their clothes and preparing to dress.

“They were detained and subsequently arrested on the indecent exposure charge, and were then released, pending their court date,” he said.

But it’s debatable whether swimming in the nude and then offending someone while leaving the water constitutes indecent exposure, according to Monterey County Managing Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel.

California Penal Code section 314.1 applies to anyone who “willfully and lewdly ... exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby.” But instructions given to jurors in indecent-exposure cases also indicate the suspect must have directed attention to his genitals for the purposes of arousing himself or sexually offending someone else, according to Hazel.

“Whoever reviews it is going to have to make a judgment call on it,” Hazel said of the Carmel case. A first offense is a misdemeanor, and anyone convicted of indecent exposure must register as a sex offender.