Woman charged after being topless in front of kids challenges Utah's lewdness laws
A woman is challenging Utah law after her stepchildren saw her topless and said she used it as a teachable moment.
Tilli Buchanan, 27, and her husband finished installing insulation in their garage when they took off their clothes inside their home after touching the itchy material, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. When her stepchildren saw her topless, Buchanan said she used the moment to teach the children that women and men should be treated the same, even when it comes to nudity.
“I should be able to wear exactly what my husband wears. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about this,” Buchanan told the newspaper.
Utah authorities disagree. West Valley City Deputy Attorney Corey Sherwin alleged in court papers that Buchanan took her clothes off in front of the 13-year-old boy, 10-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy after her husband went topless, declaring women should be able to take their shirts off too. Sherwin also accused Buchanan of “being under the influence of alcohol” and that she would only put her shirt back on if her husband exposed himself.
The Division of Child and Family Services was investigating an undisclosed case involving the children when they were tipped off about the incident from the children’s mother.
Buchanan is now facing three counts of lewdness involving a child, which is a class A misdemeanor. She could face jail time and be on the Utah sex offender registry for the next decade, if convicted. She has been fighting the charges since February.
Utah law defines lewdness and indecent exposure as committing a sexual act in public or committing an act that would alarm someone 14 years or older. Repeated offenses could lead to courts ordering the individual to register as a sex offender. Fines and jail time can also be imposed.
Unlike most other sexually motivated crimes, a person can be charged with lewdness, even if both parties are consenting adults. Attorneys can help lower lewdness charges to lesser non-sexual charges like disorderly conduct.
Buchanan’s lawyer argues Utah’s lewdness laws single her out for being a woman, since both her and her husband were topless in front of the children yet he isn’t facing charges. West Valley City prosecutors argue changing Utah’s lewdness laws to not differentiate between male and female breasts would create a slippery slope, potentially leading to dissolving laws that prohibit touching a young girl’s breasts.
Whether Buchanan is convicted, the charges have her second guessing her actions. She wonders if her clothes are too revealing, even insider her own home. Should she be found guilty, women in Utah may have to start worrying more about their appearances, even in the privacy of their own homes.