Nudist tries, fails, to drape himself in First Amendment

Wednesday, March 25, 1998

SUFFOLK, Va. (AP) — Standing naked in your front yard is not an exercise of First Amendment rights, the Virginia Court of Appeals found in a recent case.

Robert V. Gallup of Suffolk was convicted of public nudity for standing naked beside his house, where he was seen by a passing motorist.

Gallup had been charged with the same offense at least three times before. At trial, he admitted he was working naked in his yard but denied any intention to expose himself to others.

He said he would have stepped behind the house, garage or his truck to prevent anyone from seeing him if he had heard the approaching car.

On appeal, he argued that the Suffolk law, which since has been changed, was overly broad under the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

The appeals court disagreed in its Feb. 17 ruling. “Freedom of speech under the Constitution is not absolute,” the court wrote in its decision. To determine if conduct is
protected as “speech,” the court said a defendant must prove intent to convey a particular message and a strong likelihood that the message would be understood by people viewing it.

In this case, the court ruled, Gallup “clearly did not intend to present himself in public au naturel.” Thus, his conduct “had no expression or communicative purposes and did not implicate the First Amendment,” the court said.

Appeals Judge Richard S. Bray of Chesapeake wrote the opinion.