We ask police, can I be naked in Seattle?

nude-bike
Simply riding your bike while nude won't get you in trouble. It's when you add an offensive behavior that's considered indecent exposure. (MyNorthwest.com photo) | Zoom
We recently spotted a person riding up the street topless and saw a video of naked bike riders at Westlake, which got us thinking - is that even legal in Seattle?

There are no nudity laws in the city, according to Seattle police.

"We have indecent exposure laws and indecent exposure is behavior that will cause a reasonable person fear, alarm, or concern that they can then articulate to police," said Sergeant Sean Whitcomb.

"A woman riding through a neighborhood topless is probably not going to cause that much alarm," he said.

It's completely different if a person is naked from the waist down at a playground full of children.

"You're doing that to cause a reaction. Not only would it terrify the kids, it's what we would call a blatant violation of law," Whitcomb said.

The Fremont Solstice Parade is acceptable because there's an expectation of nudity. If you remove the parade and a naked man is simply riding to work, Whitcomb said you're still probably not going to see enforcement.

"It's just nudity and that person is moving from point A to point B...so there's not very much time to be alarmed."

The totality of the circumstances, according to Whitcomb, is what officers must consider. They put all of the facts together to create a general impression.

For example, a nude person riding past a school every day isn't necessarily a problem, even if a teacher complains. But if that person is circling the block several times, intentionally slowing down, timing the ride for recess, or adjusting oneself to provide a better view, an officer might respond.

"The elements of indecent exposure mean nudity plus," said Whitcomb. "Nudity alone is typically not going to do much."

While this explanation might have you considering a liberating jog tomorrow, Whitcomb warns the curious to just be aware of the context because people will definitely think something of it.

"There are people who are offended by nudity," he said. "But what we'll say is, 'What exactly about that nudity caused you concern?'"

If you are someone who is offended, the good news is fall and winter are just around the corner.


Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Stephanie joined the MyNorthwest.com team in February 2008. She has built the site into a two-time National Edward R. Murrow Award winner (Best Radio Website 2010, 2012).
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