Richard Mason, NAC Board Member
Before a naturist makes a decision to go to a specific beach location to get nude, they should have completed a “predictive thinking” mental exercise on how they would behave if approached by a law enforcement officer, how it would be best for them to act, and what they would do to try to avoid a ticket. By rehearsing those functions in advance, a person won’t panic and make mistakes that could make the situation more difficult for themselves. Your first thoughts should be on how to avoid a citation.
Before you stock the cooler, pack your “legal defense kit”. When you go to a public beach, you should have with you a copy of the following:
- Your most current membership cards for The Naturist Society and/or The Naturist Society Foundation and/or the American Association for Nude Recreation and/or your local nudist resort or naturist beach group.
- A copy of the Naturist Beach Etiquette
- A copy of the Naturist Bill of Rights
- A copy of your driver’s license
- A copy of your passport
- A copy of the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution
Put these, or copies of them, in a sturdy freezer quality zippered storage bag.
The importance of these documents is to differentiate yourself from the other people who may go nude with a sexual agenda in mind. It should go without saying, but if you have a condom in with these documents, it defeats the whole purpose.
Amendment VI of the United States Constitution
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
Naturist Beach Etiquette
- Please help keep the beach clean and remove your trash
- Protect the dunes and do not walk on them
- No glass containers on the beach
- Pets are not permitted on the beach
- The beach is not an ashtray
- Use earphones or keep radio volume low
- Please exercise common courtesy and ask permission before taking photos of those not in your party
- Gawking or staring is rude!
- Dress before leaving posted naturist area
Nudist Bill of Rights (link)
- The law enforcement officer does not know you, but he/she will most likely prejudge you based on his/her previous experiences.
- You do not know why the law enforcement officer is there. They may be there on a specific complaint against you, or they may be there because the police department sheriff’s office has been receiving several complaints and the officer was sent there on a sweep.
- It is important to know which reason sent them there so you can think out a defense strategy.
- If they were sent there specifically on a complain]t against you, it is important to know because that will kick-in specific US Constitutional protections. (Read the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution.)
- If they are there on a general sweep, then the legal documents will be your first line of defense in differentiating you from the people they were sent there to cite.
- Don’t reach into your beach bag at any time. If you have everything stowed in your beach bag, inform the officer and immediately give them permission to examine your beach bag. Obviously, your bag should already be clear of any recreational drugs or firearms.
- Special note to top-free sunbathers: If an officer asks you to stand up, don’t reach into your beach bag for your bra top without asking permission first. If that request is ignored and you get a second command to stand, you must stand up – top or no top. If the officer is an aggressive officer, they can legally grab you
and wrestle you to a standing position.
- If you don’t stand up, the officer can also charge you for refusing a police command. Complying with law enforcement commands will help prevent added charges of obstruction.
- By being pro-actively savvy and cooperative you may put the officer more at ease and establish a friendly atmosphere which can aid in diffusing the situation.
- Inform the officer that if nude sunbathing is discouraged in that location, you will be happy to get dressed and leave the area.
- At this point in time you must listen to the officer carefully. Show respect to the officer, no matter how upset you are about the situation. It helps!
- If they indicate that they are going to write a citation, ask what law you are being charged with violating.
- Most deputies and police officers do not know the laws as defined by court rulings (case law). They are trained at the police academy in state statute law and local ordinances. They only go by these and their, or their supervisor’s, personal prejudices.
- In legal research leading up to the establishment of Florida’s Haulover Beach as a legally designated naturist beach, a case was found where a woman was arrested for swearing and cursing at a police officer who had gone to her home on a domestic violence call. The officer charged her with “swearing and cursing” at him — thus, offending him. To wit: disorderly conduct (southern-style). The judge ruled that the police officer was being paid to be offended and could not be an offended party in the case. This case was used as a “precedent” in South Florida Free Beach’s (SFFB’s) efforts to get citations dismissed. This case was from a small town in Florida and could easily be challenged as “not having standing” in any other jurisdictions because the judge who made that decision was in a lower court.
- Remember, we are in Florida — as a southern state — and the laws on the books that we are dealing with were written during the time of slavery to control the black population. Those laws remained on the books after reconstruction and were known as the Jim Crow laws – The Antebellum reality.
- They are still there although court decisions have ruled in certain cases that they do not apply. Federal civil-rights acts and court decisions are the controlling precedents in cases involved in constitutional rights, but you must know that to protect yourself. The law enforcement officers or the prosecutors will not teach you. This is when it is good for one to know about self-interest study and citizen responsibility.
- In Florida, the disorderly conduct laws were used to staff convict road gangs. In the past, sheriffs would arrest black men and rent them out to farms and steel mills. A sheriff did not need to have much cause to cite a person for disorderly conduct or even have them arrested.
- Because of the over-broad interpretation of the disorderly conduct statutes, they were also used against naturists who were sunbathing while merely nude.
- A conflict arises between the disorderly conduct statutes, the way they are used in the southern states, and the US Constitution. Generally, a deputy is called to report a public nudity situation. They are then responding to a complaint.
- Amendment 6 of the US Constitution states, and has been interpreted, that the witnesses must have provided a signed complaint or appear in court. In Miami at the police academy they teach that witnesses must sign a complaint and must also appear in court.
- If there is no one to challenge that issue, it will be overlooked by the system; and not to the advantage of the defendant.
- It really is a little complicated because if the prosecutor wants to convict you and he gets a judge that wants to convict you (to teach you a lesson), and if you don’t have an attorney, you most likely will be convicted in this casino.
- Most important for you is to know that the judge and the prosecutors are not your attorneys, and they are not there to see you get justice. The judge is there to listen to arguments. If you have none, then the prosecutor’s words become the facts. The judge is there to review the charges brought against you. If you have no attorney to represent you and you do not know the law or your rights, the judge will accept the charges as being valid and convict you.
- What has been learned time and time again is that the whole court system is like a casino, and one cannot necessarily expect justice there. If you want justice usually you must be willing to spend a lot of money on attorneys and appeals, and even then you may not necessarily get justice. You get a court ruling.
- If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, there are public defenders and pro-bono attorneys available.
- What is in our advantage, as naturists, is that the courts’ systems are clogged with cases, and the judges at the lower courts have been instructed to avoid jury and bench trials and to get the cases resolved at the court hearings. In most jurisdictions the hearing is the bench trial.
- Also, in Florida there are a few court cases in our favor plus the jury instructions issued by the Florida Supreme Court which state that mere nudity is not lewd and lascivious.
- If that sounds confusing, it is, but the person that speaks with an affirmative voice and has the right documents with them at court will usually win.
- I, thru SFFB, have assisted with well over 200 cases. All were dismissed. We first educate the person who was cited. After hearing the elements of the case, we send them information that can help them get the case dismissed in court if they are planning to defend themselves.
- We recommend they have an attorney. If the charge is disorderly conduct, they may get lucky on their own and get the case dismissed. If the charges are areas such as; indecent exposure, lewd & lascivious, or sexual enticement, these are serious, and a conviction may get you on the sexual predator list, which can ruin your life.
- Nude sunbathing does not reach the level of indecent exposure, but you can get convicted without a strong defense. We work with public defenders and private attorneys.
- Naturists need to take the time to study the court decisions concerning public nudity in the state they are living or even the state they are visiting for nude recreation.
- Visit or speak to the public defender in your county or the county where nude recreation is located. Research the case law together or online or visit a public or university law library. There are students working in these libraries who can help you. Protect yourself and your colleagues.
- Most attorneys do not know anything about public nudity law. If you do not know what questions to ask, you may get an attorney who will tell you to plead “No Contest”, which is basically a plea of “Guilty” in that it has the same primary legal effects as a guilty plea. However, you cannot appeal the judgement made against you.
- Most citations written for mere nudity are written wrong, based on the differences between “mere nudity” and “nudity with intent to entice” or “nudity in an indecent manner”.
- Protect yourself. Be smart — and polite — about it, and keep the legalities in mind. Please share this information with others too.
Over the weekend of February 4-6, 2022, the NAC Board of Directors started to review the organization’s strategic plan for the next 3-5 years. As NAC continues to extract itself from the two past years of reduced activities, mainly due to the global COVID pandemic, the board is excited to return to our pre-pandemic involvement with festivals, gatherings and workshops.
We continue to advance the mission of the organization through our efforts – either directly or through strategic partnerships – to educate, inform and advocate for naturists across North America. The strategic plan will help focus our energy to continue our successes with these efforts.
By Susan Shopiro