California Penal Code 647a defines lewd conduct as touching your private parts in public for sexual arousal. It also covers other kinds of sexual deviancy, intending to offend another person. Any behavior where moral guidelines are no observed for sexual gratification is deemed as lewd. The law considers female breasts, genitals, and buttocks as private parts.
This behavior must have happened in a public place such as a community park, theater, unfenced yard, restaurant, open balcony, etc. For a place to be deemed public, it must be easily accessible and in plain view by others. Some venues are not entirely open to the general public, but they are considered as "public places" such as hospitals and prisons.
Please note, performing sexual actions in the confines of your home is not considered lewd provided your partner or target person is a legal adult. Touching yourself in front of a minor or touching them, asking them to perform any sexual-related actions is unlawful to even inside your home. This crime is different but related to "lewd conduct," and we shall cover more of this further below.
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has excellent experience representing clients like you who are facing criminal prosecution for lewd conduct. We have prepared this informative guide so you can understand what actions are considered vulgar. We also discuss their legal implications and how we can help your case.
Variations of Lewd Conduct
An action is only considered vulgar if it is meant for sexual gratification to the perpetrator or to the person they are directing these actions. It must not meet the community standards of what is considered appropriate behavior, which means being naked on a beach set aside for nudists is not a crime. To be clear, the law does not abhor sexual activity in private. Such actions become a crime when you are reasonably aware that someone could be watching. Also, you must know that your efforts will offend them.
For instance, a man touching his private parts on a bus with passengers must be reasonably aware that someone could see what he is doing. Also, one or more passengers will likely find this sexual activity offensive even when they don't express their disgust directly. Another example is a person fondling themselves as they wait in line for a new model of laptop – they are bound to offend the other shoppers.
You can also be charged with lewd conduct for sexually arousing yourself in a public park full of kids and other persons. For the charges to stick, you must be reasonably aware that children or adults may see what is happening and find it distasteful. Pleasuring oneself in a strip club or movie theater for adult films is still considered as lewd conduct. Other acts that fall under lewd or lascivious conduct include:
- Prostitution or soliciting for sexual favors
- Watching pornographic material in public like on a bus
- Making vulgar telephone calls, you know while offending an audience. It also involves calling strangers using sexually-explicit language that annoys them.
- Walking around your home naked and leaving the blinds open so you can watch the neighbor's reactions.
- Exposing your private parts when children are walking by falls under lewd conduct with minors.
- Peeping into another person's window when they are dressing up or engaging in intercourse
- Indecent exposure where someone flashes their genitals in a public area for sexual arousal
If you are charged with lewd conduct, you must understand the legal implications of this offense and hire an experienced attorney.
What Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove?
Lewd or dissolute conduct is listed under Penal Code 647(a), and this law also covers soliciting for lewd conduct. People who contravene this law are charged with a misdemeanor crime, and the prosecution has the burden to prove the following:
- You consciously engaged in fondling yourself or touching another person's private parts, which are female breasts, genitals, and buttocks.
- You did these actions for sexual arousal or gratification for yourself or the other person, or maybe to offend them
- They must prove these actions happened in a public setting or a place open for public view or access
- When you engaged in the said conduct, there was someone else who might have found your actions offensive
- You were aware or should have been informed that other people present would be offended by your actions
Please note, if there was a third party witnessing your conduct, but they were out of sight, perhaps hiding in the bushes, then you cannot be charged with lewd conduct.
What are the Penalties for Lewd Conduct in California?
The court will use its discretion to mete out punishment depending on the particular circumstances. Penal Code 647(a) stipulates that lewd conduct is punishable by a six-months' jail sentence or you may pay a fine of $1,000. The judge can also mete out a jail sentence and monetary punishment. The court can likewise spare you from doing time and instead place you on probation and impose fines. In this option, you will do some community service as part of your punishment.
Terms and Conditions for Probation
Apart from walking away free or being fines only, being on probation is the next best option. The court will order summary or formal probation for three years and with the following terms and conditions:
- Do not contravene any laws in California or other jurisdictions
- Pay all court fees and monetary fines
- Must use your legal name and date of birth at every instance
- Adhere to all orders of the court
- Inform law enforcement on your terms of probation whenever necessary
Penal Code 288 PC – Lewd Acts with a minor
This law is also known as "lewd acts with a minor under 14" or "acts of lewd and lascivious conduct," and it is incongruent with Penal Code 647(a) which is mostly about touching yourself. Penal Code 288 prohibits touching a child's body for sexual arousal regardless of where this activity takes place. More so, it covers molesting a child – even over their clothes – or asking them to touch your private parts for sexual gratification.
California takes any charge of lewd conduct with a child as a felony, and the costs will depend on the specifics like the child's age and if you have a criminal past. You could get a probationary sentence, and repeat offenders are sentenced to life imprisonment.
Please note, claiming you didn't know the victim's age is not a viable line of defense. If you are convicted of lewd conduct with a minor, you are required to register with the public sex offender database. What's more, your name will remain on this registry for a lifetime, which means you cannot apply for jobs where interaction with minors is required.
Lewd acts with a minor can also entail sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos to an underage person. For instance, a 21-year-old college student who sends his 16-year-old girlfriend with whom they have been friends since childhood. If the parents, teachers, or another person sees such messages, they would call the authorities and this man will face charges for lewd conduct with a minor.
Do I Have to Register with a Sex Offender Database?
There is no requirement for offenders to register with sex offender registries unless the prosecutor adds a charge of indecent exposure. Repeat offenders may be ordered to a mandatory psychological treatment program or even confinement to a mental hospital.
California Penal Code 647(a) stipulates indecent exposure must have happened in a public place in full view of passersby or people around you, such as kids playing in the park. It can also occur in a home where such actions are outlawed, such as a residential building, group home, or such places. Please note, relieving yourself at a hidden corner where nobody can outrightly see you may be unacceptable, but it doesn't qualify as indecent exposure.
Penal Code 314 also covers people who are involved in these actions, such as a performance arts theater group. If these people help you expose yourself to an audience to evoke impure thoughts, they too will be charged with indecent exposure. Anyone charged with Penal Code 314 must register with public sex offender registries for a lifetime.
Sex crimes are considered as the most severe offenses in the criminal justice system. Therefore, state and federal laws require registration for people convicted of sex crimes so it can keep track of them even when they move jurisdictions. You will submit your name and addresses to state and national government for record-keeping in a database called the sex offender registry.
Failure to oblige with this requirement will be a gross infringement of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Registering alone is not enough; offenders must continually update their information such as their home address and place of employment. If you are prosecuted under California statutes and refuse to register, you can face prosecution under federal laws. Therefore, moving jurisdictions or going to another country does not absolve you of your conviction.
Violating SORNA requirements usually attracts a prison sentence of up to 10 years and fines. Please note, a judge may order this registration even when they have served probationary and jail sentences if the perpetrator shows signs of repeating the offense.
What are the Effects of Sex Offender Registration?
Being on a sex offender list can ruin your life in many ways. To start with, you will join the ranks of people who are convicted of sex crimes, which are the most severe in the justice system. This database includes rapists, child molesters, and people convicted of sexual harassment, child pornography, and prostitution.
There are many ramifications of being in a sex offender database, such as being unable to live in certain places, especially when the home or apartment is near a school. Landlords usually ask for permission to do a criminal background check and finding your name on the sex offender list is a red flag. You will also be denied employment in jobs that involve minors such as teaching or working at a daycare.
People in your community will know about your conviction, and this act is intentional so that the government can protect the public. Anyone can gain access to your criminal history, your picture, and the current place of residence. This may feel like a violation of your privacy, but it is a reality for convicted sex offenders.
Megan's law requires convicted sex offenders to share their details with public sex offender registries. In California, this law is codified as Penal Code § 290.46 and employers are prohibited from using the log to determine if they hire a registered offender or not. They cannot use this database to fire or demote a worker unless they are legally protecting people at risk. If an employer misuses this information, they expose themselves to litigation and monetary fines.
Cal. Pen. Code § 290.46 allows employers to act only when someone else is at risk of becoming a victim of a similar sex offense. For example, if you are convicted of lewd conduct involving exposing your genitals to children, a daycare owner may refuse to hire you. They can argue that having you around kids puts those children at risk of this lewd conduct.
Cal. Pen. Code § 290.45(a)(8) exempts some employers from this law, so they are free to check if a prospective employee is a registered sex offender or not. These employers include senior centers, hospitals, daycare centers, etc. as they serve vulnerable populations. Schools are forbidden by Section 45122.1 of the Education Code from hiring convicted sex offenders and people convicted of other heinous crimes.
Schools, therefore, can use the public sex offender registry to perform adverse employment actions such as firing or denying a job altogether.
Entrapment by Members of Law Enforcement
In many cases, people are apprehended for dissolute conduct during sting operations where the police bait innocent people into doing sexual favors. They may pose as gay men in public restrooms or parks and encourage you to perform sexual actions on them or expose yourself to them. Even if you don't give in to their requests, the police will arrest you anyway, and embellish your conduct.
Knowing that some rogue police officers use entrapment to meet arrest quotas is inconceivable to many, but it happens more times than you imagine. Such baseless charges are why you need the best attorney in your corner to defend you in the best way we can. We can investigate the arresting officer's record to see if they have tendencies to entrap victims, among other telltale signs.
What to do When Arrested for Lewd Conduct
As you can see above, it is possible to be arrested for lewd conduct when relaxing at the neighborhood park, at a restaurant, on the streets, or just about any public setting. An officer can arrest you if they witnessed the so-called dissolute conduct or if they have probable cause you committed the said crime. For example, a nanny at the park could have seen or imagined your uncouth behavior and summoned the authorities. If you are a repeat offender, there could also be an arrest warrant signed by a judge after there is proof of probable cause.
Do not attempt to run away from the police when they approach you as this will only agitate them. In many situations, using force when being arrested is not acceptable, so remain calm even when you suspect the arrest is unlawful. Using energy could earn you a charge of resisting arrest and or battery on a police officer, which comes with corresponding penalties and assessments.
You will be taken to the nearest station for booking. Whether or not you are guilty, do not accept the charges being levied against you, and invoke your rights to legal counsel. Remember, everyone has a right to an attorney, but these rights only protect you if you evoke them. If you haven't been arrested before, you may feel disoriented and scared, and want to do anything to avoid spending a night in a jail cell.
Police officers may claim they don't want trouble and promise to let you go if you explain your actions. From our many years of experience representing suspects, you cannot talk your way out of jail. Refrain from making any decisions regarding the charges brought before you and do not participate in any line-ups.
Do not expect any privacy while in police custody unless you are consulting with your attorney. Therefore, avoid sharing any incriminating details while you wait in a holding cell as this information could be used against you. You can also assume that all telephone calls are recorded apart from conversations with your legal counsel.
Some people may ask for a public defender, and while their services are free, these professionals are known for being overworked. They barely have time to prepare for cases and have a proclivity for making deals with prosecuting attorneys. If you want great representation, contact an experienced defense attorney to examine your situation and see if there are any anomalies. For instance, did the arresting officers use entrapment? Did the arresting officers violate your constitutional rights?
We understand the criminal justice system very well and are keen to investigate matters when our clients are mistreated. Our qualified attorneys will get to the station as soon as possible and start helping you. They will explain how the case may fare in court and what you can expect as the proceedings continue. We offer personalized services, and we shall work tirelessly to ensure you get the best possible outcome.
Possible Defenses for Lewd Conduct
As you can see above, being charged with lewd conduct is a serious offense that can land you in jail for about ten years. The court requires you to submit your personal information with the sex offender registry. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has litigated many cases involving lewd conduct and helped clients. It is our job to solve your legal problems, so your life is not ruined, especially if the allegations are frivolous.
Here are some possible defenses we can mount to keep you away from jail and the sex offender database:
- The said lewd conduct (e.g., touching yours or someone else's genitals) did not happen in the first place
- You touched yours or another person's private areas for a different reason, not sexual gratification
- These actions did not take place in a public setting or a space open to public view
- You rationally believed nobody could see what you were doing or nobody present could be offended by your actions
- Law enforcement used entrapment to have you arrested for misconduct
When you choose our practice, rest assured that we shall utilize every resource available to help your case. Our goal is to get the best deal and move on with your life. Our defense attorneys have accrued years of experience litigating similar situations, and we know how the system works.
Find the Best Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Lewd conduct or lewd conduct with a minor are serious charges that can ruin your life. You could remain behind bars for six months or more, depending on how many times you have engaged in this behavior previously. Serving time means losing your job, and your family will suffer, especially if you are the breadwinner.
Having your name on a public sex offender's registry is another possible outcome that will have adverse effects on your life. It will change how your employer and colleagues perceive you, not to mention the possibility of being laid off if your job involves interacting with children or vulnerable persons. More so, finding a residence will be increasingly difficult as people are not very neighborly with convicted sex offenders.
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has experience litigating these cases, and we have succeeded in helping many clients get the best possible outcome. Contact us today at 310-564-2605 to speak to the best legal minds in LA.
If you have been arrested in Orange County and need a criminal defense attorney please check out this law firm: Orange County Criminal Lawyer