North American Nudity

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By Scott Coulthart, Special Counsel

Do any of your neighbours annoy you?  Spare a thought then for the neighbours of a fellow from North Carolina who has for ten years now delighted in offending his neighbours by regularly parading up and down his outside balcony totally nude. It appears that he does this for no other reason besides knowing he can be seen.

His neighbours have regularly called in the local police, but they have been powerless to do anything because, in North Carolina, there is no law against being nude on your own private property even if you can be seen from public places.

The law differs in different parts of North America, but in North Carolina, in the buff is fair enough.  Some have suggested he has just been trying to get a rise out of his neighbours.

Only in America, eh?  Well, maybe not …

In Queensland, personal nudity is also not by itself an offence just because you can be seen in public.

Section 227 of the Qld Criminal Code prohibits the doing of any “indecent act” either in a place to which the public is permitted to have access, or in any place with intent to insult or offend any person.  However, nudity by itself is not necessarily an indecent act (visual torture perhaps depending upon the subject, but not necessarily what the law considers to be an “indecent act”).

Section 228(1)(c) of the Code prohibits the public exhibition of any indecent show or performance.  Whether wandering around your balcony in the nude constitutes a performance may be a matter of interpretation, but it seems likely that if you simply have nudist tendencies in your own home, the fact that others can see you won’t necessarily find you in breach of any criminal laws (in Queensland anyway – although you might be breaching body corporate regulations depending upon where you parade yourself).

If you’ve ever lived in a place where you can’t avoid seeing into or onto other’s balconies or open windows, you will know there is no shortage of people who would otherwise often be arrested.  What has been seen cannot be unseen …

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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