Certain behaviors are only appropriate behind closed doors. In California, it’s illegal to engage in lewd behavior if you are in public. Lewd behavior generally involves touching yourself or having another person touch you, for sexual gratification. You can face serious criminal charges if you engage in lewd behavior in public.
Have you been charged with lewd conduct in Los Angeles? Call the Rodriguez Law Group for immediate legal assistance. Our defense lawyers have been successfully handling complex criminal cases for more than two decades. We’re here to help you protect your future. Contact us to schedule a free, no obligation case assessment today.
California Penal Code 647(a) PC
In California, there are certain things you cannot do if you are in public. California Penal Code Section 647(a) PC prohibits anyone from engaging in lewd or dissolute conduct “in any public place” or when “exposed to public view.” However, you must know, or should reasonably know, that others are present and can see you.
Lewd conduct involves touching your private areas, or those of another person, for sexual gratification or to annoy or offend. Private areas include the genitals, buttocks, and female breast.
Simply put, it is a crime to engage in sexual touching or contact with yourself or another person in public when others are present.
What Does the State Have to Prove?
The state has to convince a judge or jury that you are guilty of engaging in lewd conduct in violation of 647(a) PC. This involves proving the following elements of the crime:
- You willfully engaged in lewd or dissolute conduct;
- You touched your or another person’s genitals, buttocks, or breasts;
- Within the intent to sexually arouse or gratify yourself or another person, OR to annoy or offend someone else;
- In the view of the public;
- While someone else was present; and
- You knew or should have known that this person would be offended by your actions.
Willful Behavior: You must willfully engage in the lewd or dissolute conduct. Actions will be considered willful if they were intentional and on purpose.
Lewd Conduct: Lewd conduct is defined as “conduct which involves the touching of the genitals, buttocks, or female breast for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, annoyance or offense.”
Dissolute Conduct: Dissolute conduct is defined as behavior that is “loosed from restraint, unashamed, lawless, loose in morals and conduct, recklessly abandoned to sensual pleasures, profligate, wanton, lewd, debauched.”
Touching: Lewd conduct involves touching yourself or another person in an offensive or sexually-gratifying manner. Touching can be defined to include contact with the skin OR contact over the clothing.
Intent: You must touch yourself or another person with the intent to (a) sexually arouse or gratify, (b) offend, or (c) annoy. This protects you if you touched yourself or another person by mistake, or if you had a legitimate medical purpose for engaging in otherwise prohibited conduct.
Public: Lewd conduct is only a crime if it is done in public or in view of the public. A public place is any space that is “open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there.’ Your conduct may also violate 647(a) PC if it is done in any place that is in view of the public.
Knowledge: It’s not always a crime to have sex or engage in sexual conduct in public. It is a crime when you engage in sexual conduct in public when you know, or reasonably should know, that others are present. 647(a) PC is intended to protect innocent bystanders who might be offended by your actions. You may be considered to have knowledge if you engage in lewd conduct:
- In the middle of a crowded public space, or
- In broad daylight in a location that’s frequently traveled by others.
You can escape criminal liability if you engaged in lewd conduct but reasonably believed that you wouldn’t be seen by anyone else.
Penalties for Lewd Conduct
Lewd conduct is considered an act of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor in the state of California. The penalties for lewd conduct can include:
- A maximum of 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail
- $1,000 in fines, and/or
- Summary probation.
Probation may include requirements to abstain from drugs and alcohol, attend mandatory counseling, and/or complete community service hours.
A conviction for lewd conduct will also trigger social and civil penalties. These penalties, known as collateral consequences, aren’t necessarily tied to your specific crime. Instead, they exist because you now have a criminal record. These collateral consequences can affect your ability to work, find housing, and even secure a loan. A sex-related crime can also impact your custodial and/or visitation rights.
Do I Have to Register As a Sex Offender If I’m Convicted of Lewd Conduct?
No. Lewd conduct is not a crime that requires registration on as a sex offender. However, prosecutors in California may charge you with other sex crimes. These crimes, including indecent exposure, can require mandatory registration.
Defending Lewd Conduct Charges in Los Angeles
You have the right to defend yourself if you have been accused of a crime. The arguments you raise in your defense should help to excuse, explain, and/or justify your alleged behavior.
The following defenses may help if you have been charged with lewd conduct:
- You did not intend to sexually gratify yourself or another person
- You did not intend to offend or annoy another person
- You did not touch yourself or another person in a sexual manner
- False accusations or mistaken identity
- You were not in public or in view of the public, or
- You reasonably believed that you were alone and that no one else could see you.
The stronger your arguments, the harder it will be for the prosecution to satisfy its burden of proof.
Contact Our Lewd Conduct Defense Attorneys For Help
You can defend yourself, but your chances of a successful outcome are much greater when you hire an attorney to handle your case. Contact the Rodriguez Law Group for help. Our criminal defense attorneys will carefully review your alleged crime and determine the best defense strategies for your case. Call today to learn more.