On some days, the weather can be so lovely or hot that it’s tempting to cruise down the road while shirtless. You’ll enjoy the feel of the sun or the breeze on your skin.
But is it legal? Here’s the answer.
Federal law specifically prohibits individuals of any gender from driving topless. However, some states are against partial or full nudity in public. Driving without a shirt qualifies as indecent or obscene exposure, and you’ll be subject to laws against indecent public exposure.
It would be best to familiarize yourself with your state laws before hitting the roads while topless.
Some states and municipality laws are against driving without a shirt, even if you don’t intend to gain any sexual gratification.
It’s so because if being nude causes other road users to be disturbed, distracted, or alarmed, then it’s a case of a misdemeanor.
If you’re not sure whether it’s legal to drive without a shirt in your state or not, today’s article is for you. Read on.
Table of Contents
Is Driving Without a Shirt a Felony?
In most states against public nudity, driving without a shirt is a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on their nudity laws.
As much as there’s no federal legislation against indecent exposure, states are at will to define and adhere to their laws on the matter. In most US states, public display of female breasts is illegal, while men are legal to drive around shirtless.
The indecent exposure laws only cover partial or full display of genitals or anus in public.
On the contrary, some states are vehemently against displaying female areolas in public.
For example, driving while topless in Arizona can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The state laws clearly state that it’s indecent exposure if a person displays their genitals or anus or a woman’s areola(s) in public and in the presence of another person who ends up offended by the defendant’s actions.
Furthermore, indecent exposure to a minor younger than fifteen years of age is a class 6 felony.
Class 6 felony is the least severe type of felony, and the charges range from probation, fines, or a prison sentence.
Indecent exposure to a minor who is fifteen years or more is regarded as a class 1 misdemeanor.
The state of Michigan is against public display of a woman’s areolas unless she’s breastfeeding or planning to do so. However, men are free to drive while shirtless on the condition that they’re not disorderly.
Acts of indecency are punishable by imprisonment of not more than 2 years or a fine of $2,000 or less, depending on the extent of the indecency. Sexually delinquent persons face imprisonment that ranges from a day to a maximum of life in prison.
Is the Interior of Your Car a Public Place?
Being indecent on private property is legal in most states. If so, then some might assume that they can drive on public roads while shirtless since they’re in their cars. You’ll end up arrested for indecency and obscenity since a private car on a public road is legally a public place.
The laws on public indecency, lewdness, and obscenity will apply to you if you’re driving or parked in public places.
For example, in Indiana, an intoxicated driver pulled over by the police is guilty of public intoxication.
In the City of Seattle, you’re free to conduct your business, such as driving while you’re nude. It’s acting in a way that causes arousement or discomfort to another person that shall get you arrested.
If you’re fully out of public view, such as on a private road or a garage, your car is technically a private space.
States That Are Illegal to Drive Topless
You will get pulled over for indecent exposure if you, let’s say, cross from a state that allows driving without a shirt to one that is against the practice.
For example, when crossing the Colorado border into Utah, you might have to put on your top, especially if you’re female.
And as we know, ignorance is no defense. To prevent you from getting on the wrong side of the law while driving without a shirt, here are states totally against the practice.
States That Allow Driving Without a Shirt
Some states have public lands whereby nudity is tolerated or allowed. Some allow for nudity within certain premises on the condition that the nudity must not be observable from a public space.
Some states have laws that allow women to go topless in all areas where men are topless.
Here’s a list of the “topless states.”
- New York
States That Have Ambiguous Laws on Shirtless Driving
There are American states where being topless in public, driving without a shirt included, is legal, but there are ordinances against nudity in public.
The ordinances are not legal themselves but are being enforced unless challenged in a court of law and accepted by the populace.
Here’s a list of states that have ambiguous laws on driving shirtless
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- Washington DC
The ordinances will scrutinize driving without a shirt as acts of public lewdness, nudity, or disorderly conduct.
For example, Oklahoma’s public etiquette laws are still being adhered to despite the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a ban on women being topless in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The court’s jurisdiction covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Utah. In effect, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ judgment applies to the six states.
However, Oklahoma remains stubborn and only allows nudity in certain situations, such as a woman showing her breasts while breastfeeding.
Additionally, the six states also allow municipalities to regulate or ban any form of nudity within their jurisdictions.
Can You Be Arrested for Driving Without a Shirt in a Topless City?
Austin, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, New York City, and Portland, Oregon are some of the topless cities in the US.
It’s legal to drive in these cities without your shirt, but the police officers might arrest you under the guise of disorderly conduct.
Conclusion: Is Driving Without a Shirt Illegal
Driving without a shirt will not affect your driving experience. However, if your exposed body causes other drivers to be uncomfortable or distracted, you can be arrested for distracted driving.
Additionally, as vague as topless driving laws may seem, the ordinances put in place are adhered to religiously in some US states and municipalities.
Every state specifies different guidelines as to the exact definition of nudity.
It’s especially the case in the states that lack clear laws on the best dress code while driving. Always check the local laws before proceeding with your journey.
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