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Our View: S.D. indecent exposure law needs update

A state senator plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would change the way indecent exposure is defined by state law. Sandy Jerstad, a Democrat from Sioux Falls, has received a complaint from a constituent that a plumber exposed...

A state senator plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would change the way indecent exposure is defined by state law.

Sandy Jerstad, a Democrat from Sioux Falls, has received a complaint from a constituent that a plumber exposed himself while working in the constituent's home. The man could not be charged, however, because it didn't happen in a public place.

If the facts are as presented, and the man showed his genitals and not mistakenly another part of his body as he bent to make his repairs, we find this lewd, frightening and sad, all at the same time. And the way state law is written at present, according to Jerstad, there's really nothing anyone can do about it.

She wants to change the law to make such a scenario a crime, and we're behind her entirely.

And here's a twist to what Jerstad hopes to accomplish.

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According to news reports out of Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Hope Matchan wants to change the crime of indecent exposure as it pertains to the victim.

Matchan prosecuted a case last year in which a 55-year-old man was acquitted of exposing himself to a 29-month-old girl. At present, exposing one's genitals to a child is a crime only if the accused does so with intent to sexually arouse or gratify someone and knows his conduct is "likely to annoy, offend or alarm some child." The defendant in the Minnehaha County case argued the girl was too young to be a victim of indecent exposure.

Evidently, South Dakota's indecent exposure laws need an update, and we hope Jerstad finds success in her quest this legislative session, which kicks off Jan. 13.

Sex crimes against the helpless -- such as a woman alone in her home, or a very young child -- are all the more disgraceful, and any and all actions should be taken to erase loopholes from the state's law books.

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