Engaging in lewd behavior while in public, or exposed to public view, can be a serious criminal offense in San Diego. If you have been arrested for lewd or dissolute conduct, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC for information about how we can help you fight any criminal charges that the state decides to pursue.
Our San Diego criminal lawyers have over 19 years of experience representing clients in all criminal matters, including those for lewd conduct. We know that crimes of a sexual nature are particularly serious and will fight to minimize the consequences of your arrest. Our aggressive approach makes it difficult for the state to build a strong case against you. This often allows us to negotiate favorable plea bargains or even get the charges against our clients dropped in their entirety. Call us today to set up a free consultation with our skilled legal team.
What is Lewd Conduct?
In California, it is illegal to engage in or solicit another person to engage in lewd or dissolute conduct in public. In simpler terms, it is illegal to engage in sexual conduct while in public or in view of the public.
If you are charged with engaging in lewd conduct, as defined in California Penal Code 647(a) PC, the state must prove:
- You acted willfully
- You touched your or another person’s genitals, buttocks, or female breasts
- You intended to sexually arouse or gratify yourself or another person or annoy or offend
- You were in a public place or in a place that could be viewed by the public
- You knew, or should have known, that someone else was present at the time who would be offended by your actions.
In order to be convicted of lewd behavior, you must intentionally and purposefully engage in illegal behavior. This means that accidentally touching or brushing up against another person in a sexual or offensive manner would not be considered lewd conduct. Your actions must be performed intentionally.
Penal Code 647(a) makes it a crime to engage in lewd or dissolute conduct. This basically means that it is a crime to touch yourself or another person in a sexually-explicit or arousing way in public. Touching can be accomplished directly on the skin or through a layer of clothing.
Intent to Sexually Arouse or Offend
In order to be considered a lewd act, sexual contact must be made with the intent to arouse, annoy, or offend. This element is important because it helps to exclude behavior that is necessary for medical purposes, accidental, or unintentional.
Penal Code 647(a) requires that lewd conduct occur in public or in view of the public. California law defines “public” to mean a “place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there.” Lewd behavior can also occur if you are in a place that can be seen by individuals in a public space.
Can parts of your own private property be considered “in the public view”? Maybe. While courts have expressed that a fenced yard is not considered a “public place” for purposes of this law, it is possible that other spaces on your property could be. For example, porches, driveways, and yards that are not fenced or equipped with privacy shields (i.e., bushes, shrubs, trees, shades) may be considered in the view of the public. Whether a location is public or in the public’s view will be a question of fact for a jury.
In order to be convicted of engaging in lewd conduct, you must have known, or should have known, that:
- Someone was present at the time of your conduct, and
- They would reasonably be offended or annoyed.
Here’s why this is important. If you and your partner sneak off into a dark corner of a public park that most people rarely visit, engaging in sexual behavior may not be a criminal offense. You took specific steps to hide your sexual behavior from the public view. You would not have expected that another person would be present at the time of your sexually-illicit behavior.
Penalties for Lewd Conduct
Engaging in lewd conduct is a misdemeanor in California. If you are convicted, you can face up to 6 months in a San Diego County jail and be required to pay up to $1,000 in criminal fines. In addition to these penalties, you may also be required to complete a term of summary probation, complete counseling sessions, and/or perform a set number of community service hours.
Lewd conduct with another adult is one of the few sex crimes that does not require you to register with the state as a sex offender. However, lewd conduct with a child will automatically cause the penalties for your actions to be aggravated and mandate that your register as a sex offender.
Lewd conduct simply refers to engaging in sexual petting and touching in public. Other California laws target similar, but distinct, behaviors.
Indecent Exposure [314 PC]: Indecent exposure is the crime of willfully and lewdly exposing your genitals to another person in public to annoy or arouse. Having sex in public can be charged under California’s indecent exposure law.
Lewd Acts With a Child [288 PC]: Lewd acts with a child is also known as child molestation. The crime involves engaging in sexual petting or touching with a child under the age of 14.
Defending Charges of Lewdness
When you are accused of engaging in lewd conduct in public you have the right to defend yourself. The arguments you present should help to explain, justify, or excuse your actions. When these arguments are persuasive, the state will have a tough time building a solid case against you. This can make it easier for your attorney to negotiate a fair deal or the dismissal of all charges.
Defenses to lewd conduct may include:
- Accidental or unintentional behavior
- No intent to arouse, annoy, or offend
- You were not in public or in public view
- You were lawfully on private property
- False accusation, and
- Mistaken identity.
Fighting Lewd Conduct Charges in San Diego
Have you been arrested for engaging in lewd conduct in public? Call the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC for immediate legal assistance. Our San Diego criminal defense attorneys know that your future is at stake and will fight to minimize the consequences of your arrest. It is important to act quickly to limit the amount of time the state has to build a case against you. Do not hesitate to contact us today to set up a free consultation.