Committing or soliciting lewd acts in public is a misdemeanor offense under California Penal Code 647(a). Lewd acts involve touching the private parts of yourself or another person for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, to annoy or to offend.
“Private parts” may include the genitals, buttocks, or female breasts. Even if the touching between individuals was consensual, if there are any other people present who might have been offended, the participants may be charged with committing lewd acts.
Lewd acts in any public place may be prohibited, even if such actions are common. For example, people attending an adult theatre or adult video store booths may regularly touch their genitals for sexual gratification, or ask others to participate in similar activities. However, the police may still arrest an individual for committing or soliciting lewd acts in public even if others are doing the same thing.
Activities taking place within your home are not considered public. However, a public place may include businesses open to the public, inside a vehicle, or locations where others can see inside a private place. For example, lewd acts taking place in your home in front of a window where passersby can see inside may be considered to be lewd acts in public.
An individual can be charged with lewd acts even if the act was not done for the purpose of sexual arousal. Flashing someone’s buttocks, breasts, or genitals in order to offend someone may be considered lewd acts in public.
Committing or soliciting lewd acts in public is a misdemeanor offense and a conviction can result in up to six (6) months in county jail, a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both jail and fine.
A conviction for PC 647(a) does not require registration as a sexual offender.
However, in some cases, the prosecution will also charge PC 314, which is commonly known as “indecent exposure.” A conviction of PC 314 does require lifetime registration as a sexual offender.
Individuals facing charges for lewd acts in public may feel like they have no choice but to plead guilty in order to avoid more serious charges that invoke sex-offender status. However, before you plead guilty to any criminal charges, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your options. You may have a number of possible legal defenses to avoid a criminal conviction for lewd acts in public.
Possible defenses to the crime of lewd acts in public include arguing no one present was offended by the action, touching of the private parts was not for sexual arousal or done to annoy another, or the defendant was not in a public place at the time. Your attorney will be able to investigate your case, identify your strongest defenses, and fight to keep your record clear.
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