A Utah Woman Was Charged for Going Topless in Her Own Home. Her Legal Case Is Not Going Great.

A judge denied Tilli Buchanan’s motion to declare the state’s lewdness law discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Tilli Buchanan in court in NovemberLeah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP

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A Utah judge just denied a local woman’s motion to declare the state’s lewdness law unconstitutional after she was slammed with criminal charges for going topless in her own home.

Last year Tilli Buchanan was charged with lewdness after she and her husband took their shirts off while installing insulation in their garage. Her husband, who was in a similar state of undress, was not charged. Buchanan’s stepchildren were also there. Their mother was the one who reported Buchanan to the authorities. As I wrote back in September:

Even though Buchanan was topless in the privacy of her own home, she is now facing potentially very serious consequences: three counts of lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor which could land her in jail and place her on the sex offender registry for 10 years. Utah’s ordinance about lewdness involving a child prohibits the exposure of “the female breast below the top of the areola,” either in public or “in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child.” 

Buchanan’s attorneys filed a motion to declare Utah’s lewdness statute unconstitutional because it discriminates against women, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. They based their motion on a 10th Circuit Court ruling that found a Fort Collins, Colorado, ban on female toplessness unconstitutional because it did not apply similarly to men. The judge in Buchanan’s case claimed that that ruling did not apply here as the Utah law is “significantly different.”

“It is the prerogative of the Legislature to establish laws incorporating contemporary community standards regarding lewdness,” the judge wrote, according to the Tribune. “It is not for the court to decide whether the Legislature’s enumeration of lewd conduct is wise or sound policy.”

So the law stands, and if Buchanan does not appeal the judge’s decision, the case against her will move to trial.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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