Engaging in a sexual activity in the back of restroom or a movie theater might seem alright at that moment, but in California, such an act could be considered a crime. When one is convicted of lewd conduct, there is no requirement for registration as a sex offender, but still, it remains to be a serious criminal offense with severe, long-term potential consequences. Some of these consequences include a damaged reputation, social stigma, loss of familial relationships, loss of employment, the possibility of jail time, and substantial fines. As such, your wild adventure may leave you facing criminal charges.
If you’ve been accused of lewd conduct, you are probably embarrassed, humiliated, confused, scared, and perhaps angry. Fortunately, you do not have to throw have to throw up your hands and give up the fight before it begins. With Pasadena Criminal Attorney by your side, you can rest assured you have a powerful ally, with unique qualifications to defend charges of lewd conduct. Call us today at 626-689-2277 for a free consultation and case analysis. We will work zealously to keep the charges off your record by developing a strong defense strategy.
How Does California Define Lewd Conduct?
The sex crime of lewd conduct is defined under California Penal Code Section 647(a). It’s basically defined as the act of engaging in or soliciting another to engage in lewd or dissolute conduct within public view or in a public place. For an act to be considered “lewd,” it has to involve touching of one’s own or someone else’s genitals, buttocks, or female breasts. The motive for the conduct could either be sexual arousal, sexual satisfaction or to purposefully offend or annoy another person. Usually, lewd conduct accusations involve disorderly conduct such as indecent exposure, selling pornography, prostitution, giving oral sex, mooning among others. For instance, you’re guilty if you were caught touching a woman’s breasts in a movie theater. However, even in public, an act cannot be automatically considered to be lewd unless the defendant knows or should know that there’s another person who might be present and could likely be offended by the act.
Though lewd conduct may be viewed as less offensive compared to other sex crimes such as child molestation and rape, they are unfortunately prosecuted with the same vigor as other such serious offenses. The consequences you could face if convicted include jail time, loss of professional licenses, and other serious penalties.
Police Undercover Sting Operations for Lewd Conduct
In Los Angeles, many lewd conduct arrests are as a result of undercover sting operations by the police department. Typically, an undercover police officer will pose as a gay man in a beach, a city park, a public bathroom, or an adult bookstore. They approach other unsuspecting individuals in an attempt to bait them into a sexual act of masturbating or exposing themselves. Normally, the only other individual present at the time of the alleged activity is the undercover police officer. The end result could be conflicting statements between the defendant and the arresting officer. If you’re facing lewd conduct charges as a result of improper tactics employed by undercover police to get you to commit a crime, call a Pasadena lewd conduct lawyer at our law firm.
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
To prove you engaged or solicited lewd conduct, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements of the crime:
- You participated in an act that involved touching your genitals, buttocks, or female breast or that of another person.
- You engaged in or solicited another person to engage in the act with for the purpose of sexual arousal or satisfaction or to offend or annoy the other person.
- The act took place in a public place or in a place open to the public view.
- At the time of the conduct, another person who could have been offended was present.
- You were aware or should have known that your actions might have offended the other person present.
If you’re facing charges for soliciting another person to engage in lewd conduct, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You solicited another person to touch your own or another person’s buttocks, genitals, or female breasts
- The request was made in a public place or an area in public view
- You made the request for sexual arousal or gratification
- You made the request with the intent of having the act take place in a public place
- The person you made the request to receive the communication
- You knew or should have known that another person who could have been offended by the act was present
For one’s conduct to be found offensive, the bare possibility of being seen by another person is needed to meet the bar of “knew or should have known.” This, therefore, implies that it must be likely, not merely possible. Your lewd conduct defense attorney will be able to carefully distinguish the two.
In lewd conduct cases, the term “public” is broadly interpreted. It can be a place open to the public (like a hallway in an apartment building), a public property (government-owned), a vehicle parked by the side of the road, a private home’s front yard with no fence to block the view, a closed place of business, or a hotel room. In your home or hotel room, the place is considered to be in the public view if you can be seen through an open door or window with no curtains or blinds.
The prosecution must prove all of these elements, failure to which the charges will be dismissed because you are not guilty. Every case has unique circumstances and evidence. This is why it’s imperative to speak with Pasadena Criminal Attorney lewd conduct defense lawyer for more information about your specific criminal case.
Penalties, Sentencing, and Punishment for Lewd Conduct
Under PC 647(a), the offense of engaging in or soliciting another to engage in lewd conduct results in a misdemeanor conviction. The punishment for the conduct is a fine of up to $1,000, or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both. Your legal counsel at Pasadena Criminal Attorney will explain in detail all the consequences attributed to the charges.
Court options at time of sentencing
If you are convicted for lewd acts in a public place, your punishment will be determined by the court based on the unique circumstances of your case. At the time of sentencing, the court can do any of the following:
- Impose a jail sentence of up to 6 months in county jail, place you on probation, and impose a fine.
- Impose a fine but no jail sentence, place you on probation and order you to do community service or other work-related release.
If you are placed on probation, it’s imperative to follow all of the probation terms closely. This will help you avoid being penalized to serve additional jail time. A misdemeanor conviction carries an informal or summary probation for three years. Your probation terms will likely be:
- Obey all orders of the courts
- Not violate any laws
- Pay all court fines and fees
- A requirement that you stay away from the location
- Use your true name and date of births at all times
- Disclose the terms of probation when asked by a law enforcement
- An AIDS test
This is not an exclusive and this implies that the court has sole discretion to impose additional terms of probation. Violation of any of these terms can result in additional punishment in the form of serving a jail sentence.
Legal Defenses to Lewd Conduct Charges
Fighting a charge of lewd conduct requires the application of several defense strategies, and an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you get started on the case. The defense strategies employed will depend on the facts and the evidence presented by the prosecutor. Your sex crime attorney will analyze the details to analyze any inconsistencies as to what transpired during the alleged incident. A strong defense strategy could result in a reduction or a dismissal of the charges. Here are some defenses that your lewd conduct lawyers at Pasadena Criminal Attorney can raise on your behalf:
- You didn't touch your private parts or someone else's.
You are not guilty if you did not do what the arrest cops says you did. If you did not touch yourself or another person in a way that be considered as lewd or dissolute, your attorney can ascertain that you are a victim of false accusation. Remember, the prosecutor has the burden to prove you engaged in lewd conduct. Often times, the prosecution cannot prove the allegation beyond all reasonable doubt due to lack of enough evidence.
- You did touch yourself, but not for the intent of sexual gratification
In order to be found guilty of violating Penal Code Section 647(a), you must have committed the act with the aim of sexual arousal or gratification or to offend or annoy another person. For instance, there are times when one might touch another’s buttocks but not for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal. A good example is how coaches and athletes often slap the buttocks of their players or teammates as a sign of encouragement. This is purely done with no intent for sexual satisfaction. Also, it could be that you were touching your genitals to apply a cream prescribed to treat a medical condition. Police or witnesses in such a situation could assume that you were masturbating, which is not true as your action was not for the purpose of sexual arousal or satisfaction. Whatever the reason, you cannot be found guilty of a 647(a) offense if the prosecution can’t prove that your action stemmed from a sexual or offensive intent.
- You reasonably believed there was no third party person present who would be offended by the conduct
This is the strongest defense to charges of lewd conduct. You cannot be found guilty of lewd conduct under PC 647(a) unless the prosecution can prove that you knew or should have known that there was another who would likely be offended by the act. For instance, George and Mike are masturbating each other at an isolated part of a park at 3 a.m., a time they believe no one comes to the park. An undercover cop who was lurking around bursts them and they get arrested. While they were truly caught in the action, George and Mike reasonably believed that no one visited the place at that hour of the night, and they chose the isolated spot precisely so that no one would see them. Therefore, in such a case, the activity cannot constitute lewd conduct under 647(a) simply because there was no third party present to witness or be offended by the conduct. Also, one cannot be convicted if there was another person present but was not visible or was hiding.
- You were not in a public place or a place open to public view
You cannot be convicted of lewd conduct if the alleged sexual activity took place in a private property, such as a private apartment room, a hotel room, or a laundry room directly adjacent to your apartment. Therefore, your defense attorney can argue that the activity took place in an area that’s not public or not within the public view. It’s not sufficient to be found in violation of Penal Code section 647(a) if you were in a private enclosed area.
- An undercover cop entrapped you
Police are forbidden under California entrapment laws from inducing an otherwise law-abiding citizen to commit a crime he was not inclined to commit. This includes using pressure, harassment, flattery, fraud, or threats. You are not entrapped if the undercover police agent presented to you an opportunity to commit a crime or simply initiated a criminal activity. We can get the charges against you dismissed if we can establish that the police engaged in improper entrapment.
Call a Pasadena Defense Attorney
Just an accusation of having engaged in lewd conduct can ruin your professional life, personal reputation, and relationship with your loved ones. Therefore, if you've been accused of engaging in or soliciting lewd conduct in a public area, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced Los Angeles defense lawyer who is experienced with these cases as soon as possible. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney we believe that your freedom is too important to risk and our defense team will employ every possible defense strategy to protect your freedom and rights. Call an experienced attorney from our law firm today at 626-689-2277.