Maybe your date went really well. Or, perhaps you’re trying to steal a moment alone, away from the kids to be close to your spouse. Whatever the reason, you find yourself having sex in your car. Is that legal in California? Does it depend on where you’re parked? Or, is having sex in your car always against the law?
It Can Be Illegal to Have Sex In Your Car
Under Penal Code Section 647(a) PC, it’s a crime to “solicit anyone to engage in or lewd or dissolute conduct” if you’re “in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.” Simply put, it can be illegal to have sex in your car. However, it’s not always illegal to have sex in your car.
Let’s break down what 647(a) PC really means.
What is Lewd or Dissolute Conduct?
Lewd or dissolute conduct means:
- Willfully touching
- Another person’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast.
You have to engage in this behavior with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify themselves or another person. Or, you have to intend to annoy or offend someone who might be watching.
Does lewd or dissolute conduct include sex? Yes. So, under 647(a) PC, it can be a crime to have sex in your car. However, that’s only the case if you satisfy the other element of the crime.
You Have to Be In Public or In View of the Public
It is only a crime to have sex in your car if you are:
- In a public place, or
- In a place open to the public.
You can also be considered “in public” if you knew or should’ve known you were having sex in front of someone who would likely be offended by your conduct.
What exactly is a “public” place? In California, a public place is defined to mean “a place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there.” So, this can include parks, beaches, and streets.
However, it can be illegal to have sex in your car even if you’re on private property. If you’re in the view of the public, you’ve violated 647(a) PC. So, if you’re parked in your driveway in front of your home, you’d be considered in view of the public. If your driveway was hidden from view behind a fence, it might be a different story.
Is Having Sex In Your Car a Felony?
If you’ve been arrested on charges of lewd or dissolute conduct in Los Angeles, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. In convicted, you can face up to six months in a Los Angeles County Jail and/or $1,000 in fines. You might also be sentenced to probation, which can require community service, counseling and therapy, as well as abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Lewd or dissolute conduct is one of the few sex crimes in California that will not require you to register as a sex offender.
How Can I Defend Myself If I’m Arrested For Having Sex in My Car?
Remember, the state has to prove that you’re guilty of a crime. You have the right to defend yourself.
Legitimate defenses might include:
- You weren’t having sex
- You touched another person’s genitals, but not for gratification or arousal
- You weren’t in public or in a place that could be viewed by the public
- You reasonably believed that no one present would be offended
- You’ve been entrapped by the police
- Your rights have been violated in some way.
Don’t underestimate the power of a persuasive defense. A strong defense, led by a qualified and experienced attorney, can make the prosecutor’s job much more difficult.
The best way to avoid an arrest for having sex in your car is not having sex in your car. If someone else can see you, it’s probably not a good idea. In fact, if someone else can see you, it’s probably a crime.