Woman prosecuted for exposing breasts in public loses at Minnesota appeals court

The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected a bid by a woman who sought to overturn her indecent exposure conviction on the grounds that she has the same right to expose her chest in public as men.

Eloisa Plancarte, 27, of South St. Paul, was arrested by Rochester police in July 2021 after they responded to a call about a disturbance in a convenience store parking lot. She was later charged and convicted in Olmsted County District Court with indecent exposure and possession of a controlled substance.

An indecent exposure charge is warranted when someone "willfully and lewdly exposes the person's body, or the private parts thereof" according to state law.

The appeals court decision upholding the lower court's ruling was split 2-1, with Judges Kevin Ross and Jon Schmidt forming the majority and Judge Diane Bratvold dissenting.

"A woman's intentional display of her fully exposed breasts in the parking lot of a convenience store during routine business hours constitutes willful and lewd exposure of her private parts under Minnesota Statutes," read the majority opinion.

During trial, Plancarte argued that prosecuting a woman for exposed breasts in public violates her constitutional right to equal protection. She also argued there was insufficient evidence for the conviction, saying that the state proved she exposed her breasts but not that she did so "lewdly," as the law requires.

In her dissent, Bratvold wrote she would have reversed the convictions because it was not proven that Plancarte was "lewd" in her actions. "The record evidence — which includes no testimony from anyone who saw what Plancarte did — fails to prove that Plancarte's exposure was lewd or obscene," she wrote.