Lewd Conduct Defined
California Pena Code 647 (a) defines a lewd act as a conduct that abandons moral principles for sexual gratification. The main aspect here involves engaging or soliciting another person to engage in lewd acts. Anyone who engages in this act is guilty of disorderly conduct. Violation of PC 647(a) involves any sort of touching of the genitals, breast area or buttocks of yourself or another person in any place open to the public. The motive for the conduct could be either for sexual arousal, sexual gratification, annoyance, or offending another person. For instance, you are guilty if you are caught masturbating in a movie theater or strip club. In order to prove that you are guilty of this crime, the prosecutor must be able to prove a number of elements including:
- You willfully touched your own or another person’s breasts, buttocks or genitals
- You touched the parts with the intent of sexual arousal or gratification of yourself or another person. It could also be that the intent was to annoy or offend another party
- The conduct occurred in a public place or in an area that’s open to public view
- Someone who might have been offended was present at the time the conduct occurred
- You were aware that the conduct would have offended another person present
The prosecution must also be able to prove the following elements if you are facing charges for soliciting another person to engage in lewd conduct:
- You requested another person to engage in lewd conduct by touching your own or another person’s buttocks, genitals, or female breasts
- You made the request in a public place or an area in public view
- Your intent was for the act to take place in a public place
- You made the request for sexual arousal or gratification
- You knew or should have known that another person that could have been offended by the requested conduct was likely to be around
- The person whom the request was directed to receive the communication containing the request
In some instances, the lewd conduct would have occurred in another location that’s not considered public. This, for instance, can be in a private home, closed place of business, or hotel room. You can still be convicted of lewd conduct in public if there was another person who could have seen the acts in plain sight. This could be through a window or an open door without blinds or curtains hindering public view.
Indecent exposure is considered as lewd act in California. This particular conduct involves willful exposure of the genital area for sexual gratification or the desire to offend another person. The conviction is considered to be a misdemeanor if it is the first conviction. However, the exception comes in if it’s the second conviction. The offense will be increased to a felony and carries an imprisonment of 16 months to 3 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Indecent exposure conviction may require the defendant to register as a sex offender for life and in some instances revocation of a professional license for instance if you are a teacher, nurse, or doctor.
Defenses to Lewd Conduct in Public
You need an experienced defense attorney that will employ strong strategies to fight on your behalf when faced with these serious allegations. The best strategies will result in a reduction of the charges or a dismissal altogether. Here are some defenses that our sex crime attorneys can raise on your behalf:
The touching was accidental
The prosecution must prove that you had the intent to engage in the act for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, annoyance or offense. Your attorney may therefore be able to develop a strong defense to your case to prove that the touching was accidental and there was no intent. For instance, if you had a simple brush upon another person’s breasts or buttocks is not a willful conduct. Another example could be that you were late and decided to change your clothes in the car. In the event of doing so, a child saw you from a few feet away and the mother assumes that you are masturbating in the public. If the police arrived and arrested you for a lewd conduct in public, the prosecution may find it difficult to prove the allegations.
You had no knowledge of the likelihood of a third party
In order for the conduct to be considered as “lewd,” there must be the presence of a third party. This is also one of the factors that make the conduct public. However, even if the act occurred in a public area, the absence of a witness or an individual who could have been offended is enough to prove that you are innocent. If you did not have the knowledge that someone was likely to see or the third party was not visible, then the allegations cannot be enough for a conviction.
You were not in a public area
The lewd conduct must have occurred in a public area and this is one of the elements that the prosecution must prove. Areas that are considered to be public include places like public bathrooms, place of business, public beach, open sidewalk, movie theaters, parks, car park, or dressing room in a clothing store. Your attorney may be able to argue that you were not in a public place and it’s, therefore, crucial to hire an experienced attorney who can employ aggressive defense strategy.
Defense of entrapment
In some cases, undercover police may lure a suspect to engage in lewd acts such as touching their genitals, pulling down their pants, or propose a sexual encounter in a strip club. If the defendant is lured into doing this act, the police may arrest the poor unsuspecting man and slap on handcuffs. Therefore, the person is not guilty of engaging or soliciting lewd acts. It is presumed that the suspect believed that the police was just another person seeking to just have pleasure. This, therefore, implies that the defendant did not have the knowledge of the presence of another party that was likely to be offended by the conduct. Additionally, if the encounter occurred in a discrete location such as a remote area park or empty bathroom, the conduct cannot be considered to be lewd.
Other defenses that can be used by your attorney to prove your innocence include:
- Mistake of fact
- Coerced confession
- Insufficient evidence
Punishment for a Conviction of Lewd Acts
In California, a conviction of lewd conduct in public is considered to be a misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000, up to 6 months in county jail, or both jail and fine.
If convicted of this offense, the court may give you an option to choose your punishment at the time of sentencing based on different circumstances. The options could be any of the following:
- Probation and a fine but no jail sentence. The probation will include community service or other relates services
- A probation, jail sentence of up to 6 months, and a fine.
When placed on probation, you should closely follow all the terms of probation. This is crucial in avoiding additional jail time. The probation terms include but not limited to:
- Obey all orders
- Pay all court fees and fines
- Disclose the terms of probation when asked by a law enforcement
- Use your true credentials including your name and date of birth at all times
- Stay away from the location where the alleged lewd acts occurred
- Not violate any laws
Retaining an experienced attorney is paramount since they may be able to convince the court to give you a summary probation instead of jail term. In this case, the probation will not be supervised but the important thing that you will be required to do is to fulfill all the conditions.
Lewd conduct is a criminal conviction that carries severe social stigma and legal penalties. In most cases, the prosecutors receive overwhelming pressure from the public to secure a conviction in these cases. You can avoid a conviction if you have the help of a professional attorney. Seeking legal help should be done as soon as possible in order to improve the chances of collecting the necessary information. Your attorney will aggressively defend your legal interests. This involves a defense strategy to attack the credibility of the arresting officer and any witnesses. This will be aimed at highlighting the biases posed by a specific group and the accuser.
What to Do If Accused Of Penal Code 647 (a) Lewd Conduct
In the event that you are arrested or charged with this crime, be careful not to make a statement to the police no matter the circumstances. The only information that you can provide is your name and identification. Also, be polite and only tell the police that you won’t talk about the matter unless you have a criminal attorney. Seek the legal counsel of an attorney preferably one with experience in lewd conduct cases. In whatever you do, you should not in any way plead guilty to a lewd conduct charge. This is crucial since a conviction can ruin your life and relationships. In addition, you may be forced to register as a sex offender something that you’ll never be able to separate from your name. It's best if you shut up and let the attorney to fight the case for you and get the charges reduced or dismissed.
If you or your loved one has been charged with engaging or soliciting lewd conduct under PC 647(a), consider contacting a criminal defense attorney immediately. At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we employ strong legal defenses to obtain a reduced charged or a dismissal on your behalf. Our team of lewd conduct criminal defense attorneys has successfully defended similar cases. Contact us now at (562) 308-7807 or fill our online contact form. We understand that this charge can occur at any time and for that reason, you can call for our services at any time, 7 days a week. We offer a free, confidential legal consultation and we'll be there to help you understand the law and guide you in every process involved.