The Penal Code 647(a) is the statute that addresses the crime of lewd conduct. Individuals who engage in lewd conduct in a public open area are guilty of the crime. Lewd conduct involves sexual gratification or other forms of sexual arousal. That is touching yourself or another person's private parts such as genitals, buttocks, or breast area. If convicted, you face a possibility of jail time, lack of job opportunities, monetary fines, and a negative reputation. You must contact the Orange County Criminal Lawyer if faced with these criminal charges. We have represented several lewd conduct cases. We also understand your freedom is crucial, and our attorneys will ensure you are out of jail with minor or no criminal record.

How The Law Defines Lewd Conduct

Lewd conduct is also known as an obscene act or a lascivious act. It is an unlawful act committed by a person to arouse sexual interest to self or someone else. This might include exposing one's private parts in public. For legal purposes, a public place is any place accessible to and viewable by the general public. Such locations include restaurants, theaters, stores, and parks. Some areas are public but not open to the public. These are jails, prisons, and hospitals. Lewd conducts cover a variety of incidents. In Orange County and throughout California, lewd conduct is a misdemeanor, and the penalty is jail time of up to six months and a $1,000 fine. The most common charges result from the following examples:


Prostitution is a sexual act performed in exchange for money. Others offer it in exchange for goods or valuables. Prostitution is a crime and charged as a misdemeanor for both the prostitute and the "client." Those who also act as middlemen in the transaction are also considered as law violators against pandering and pimping.

Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure can be defined as exposing one's genitals in public. It can also be urinating in public or sunbathing naked. First-time offenders get charged with a misdemeanor. Subsequent offenders' charges are considered felonies. A felony is punishable by up to eight years in jail.

Child Pornography

Distributing or possessing child pornographic material is considered as lewd conduct. Pornography includes any photo or image that appears to be engaging in sexually explicit conduct, including videos showing the impression of engaging in lewd sexual behavior. The punishment for this involves the registration of sex offenders, imprisonment, and monetary fines.

Child Molestation

Child molestation is defined as sexually abusing a child under the consent age of 18 years. It is a criminal offense and carries harsh penalties that include jail time, lifetime registration as a child sexual offender, and a tarnished reputation.


Peeping, this occurs when a person looks via another person's window or enters another person's house for sexual arousal. The statute that governs this crime is located under the lewd conduct laws and charged as a misdemeanor.

Lewd Phone Calls

The lewd phone calls are when a person calls another to make obscene comments or harass others sexually. This crime is also charged as stalking, which is a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

Third-Party Offended by Lewd Conduct

The primary purpose of Penal Code 647(a) is not only to protect the public areas but to protect the people who are in the general area. The statute prohibits sexual activities in an open public view. That is why to be convicted under this law, and the accused must have known or reasonably knew that someone else was likely to be nearby and be offended by the lewd conduct itself.

In simple terms, the crime under PC 647(a) protects the onlookers who might be offended by the lewd conduct. So even if the conduct happened in a public place and there were no people present, the state cannot or has no interest in convicting the offender.

Hence, most people who get arrested for lewd conduct in public are wrongfully convicted. Even if they committed the crime in public, they believed that no one was seeing them, or no one who viewed them would be offended.

Penalties For Lewd Conduct Conviction

Punishments for lewd conduct depends on the jurisdiction and the specific conduct committed. The crime can be charged by either being a misdemeanor or a felony. Some circumstances of lewd conduct are significant and can lead to severe legal consequences, especially in the event where the offense was committed in the presence of a minor.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you spend up to six months in prison with or a $1,000 fine as the maximum penalty. The judge might also grant you summary probation with little or no jail time. When on probation, you are supposed to have an AIDS test, go for counseling, pay fines, and stay away from the location of the incident.

In some cases, the judge determines whether the accused has to register as a sex offender. Moreover, there is a probability of the accused getting charged with indecent exposure where you are not required to register as a sex offender. An event that is welcomed by many who fear to go for trial. Since if you get convicted, it will be mandatory to register as a sex offender, which will harm your reputation.

You will want to save yourself from the punishments and shame at the hands of those you know. Get in touch with a criminal lawyer to help you get the best outcomes of your case. Our qualified criminal lawyer will use a systematic approach to identify and produce strong defense arguments to present to the jury and judges. We aim to avoid jail time and have charges dismissed.

Probation Terms for Lewd Conduct

Whenever the judge places the accused on probation, it is imperative that the accused follows all the terms of the letter. It will help the accused avoid penalization to serve additional jail time. The probation terms may include:

  • Court orders obedience

  • No violation of any other law

  • Payment of all fines and fees belonging to the court

  • Keeping distance from the scene of the incident

  • Use of your official identification that is name and date of birth

  • Attend counseling

  • Get an AIDS test

  • Disclosing the probation terms to the police

The terms are not exclusive, and so the court has the freedom to order more conditions to the accused with additional terms of probation. Violation of the imposed terms can result in further penalties in the form of serving a jail sentence.

Registration Requirements

Lewd conduct as a crime does not require one to register as a sex offender upon conviction. However, there are two caveats to this general rule. First, a jury may order the defendant to register if proven that the lewd act had a sexual motivation.

Second, the judge may charge the defendant with lewd conduct with another registrable offense like indecent exposure. It should be done with an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant. They both agree in exchange to dismiss the lewd conduct charge.

Arrest Process for Lewd Conduct

Most of the lewd conduct arrests are a result of undercover sting operations. Where undercover police, for example, pretend to lure the individual in order to trap the defendant, other sting cases involve police surveillance of discrete public places. They intend to lure unsuspecting individuals into a sexual act.

Typically, the violators are given a citation to appear in court. Other times the police will arrest them, take fingerprints, and book them before they are released with a court citation. In either case, call your criminal lawyer. The result might be conflicting between you and the arresting officer.

There is usually a delay between the arrest, reviewing the case, and filing of formal charges by the prosecution. During the intervening period, our lawyer meets with the department of administrative services to persuade them to dismiss the charges.

Since the charges of the crime is a misdemeanor, our lawyers can represent you in court without you appearing. This simply implies that if you hire a criminal lawyer, you can never appear in court.

Upon hiring your attorney, the attorney goes to court to get the police report and all shreds of evidence that the prosecution possesses. We then inspect the location where the alleged incident happened. We also run a pitchess motion to check on the background of the officer who arrested you. Get concrete evidence from possible witnesses. Purposely to find the weakness in the prosecution's case and have them dismiss the charges.

We also advise our client to plead to lesser offense charges. These charges include Penal Code 415, which refers to disturbing the peace and Penal Code 602 that prohibits trespassing. Both cannot be compared to the stigma of lewd conduct conviction. They are better and of less punishment than going for a trial of Lewd conduct.

The Best Possible Defenses to Lewd Conduct Charges

Defending a charge of lewd conduct requires the application of numerous strategies with the help of a criminal lawyer. The defense to the costs will depend on the evidence presented by the prosecutor. A good criminal lawyer will analyze the details and inconsistencies as to what transpired in the incident. With a strong defense strategy, the charges might be reduced or dismissed altogether.

Here are the best possible defenses to lewd conduct charges that a criminal lawyer can raise on your behalf:

  1. You Did Not Engage in The Conduct You Are Accused of

You are not guilty if you did not conduct yourself in a manner that the arresting officers say If you did not touch yourself or another person in a way that is considered as lewd conduct, a lawyer could argue that you are a victim of false accusations. The prosecutor has to prove the allegations, which is impossible due to a lack of enough evidence.

  1. You Indeed Touched Yourself But The Intention Was Not For Sexual Arousal

Violators of lewd conduct crime must have committed the act for sexual arousal. For example, there are times where one might feel itchy on the breast area, and one has to rub to ease the itchy feeling. The rubbing was not aimed for sexual gratification. The police or a witness in such a scenario might assume that you were arousing sex, which is not valid. The prosecution cannot charge you guilty as it can't prove your conduct stemmed from a sexual intent.

  1. You Reasonably Believed You Were Not Offending Anyone

This defense is one of the most vigorous defenses to charges of lewd conduct. You cannot be found guilty unless the prosecution can prove that you knew another person could have been offended by the conduct. For example, Jane and Mary are lesbians. They are masturbating at a separate building at the wee hours of the night. They are very sure that nobody ever visits that building, especially at that hour. Unfortunately, undercover police catch them red-handed and arrest them. While they were found in action, they reasonably believed that nobody could visit that place at that time. Thus, the conduct cannot be charged under PC 647 (a) because no one else witnesses or is offended by the conduct.

  1. You Were Not in a Public Place or an Open Space for Public View

If you were involved in sexual activity in a private place, you could not be charged with lewd conduct. Either in a hotel room, apartment, or laundry room, these are enclosed areas. It is not sufficient enough to be considered a violator of lewd conduct crime. The lawyer will argue that the conduct took place in a private area.

  1. The Undercover Police Entrapped You

In Orange County, the police entrapment laws prohibit them from inducing a citizen to commit a crime that he or she was not willing to commit. The entrapment involves the use of threats, fraud, harassment, pressure, and flattery. However, it cannot be entrapment if the police presented to you an opportunity to commit a crime or initiated the offense. Your charges will be dismissed if it is proven that the undercover police engaged in misconduct.

What The Prosecution Must Prove

For the prosecution to convict you of engaging in lewd conduct, he or she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the following elements of the crime:

  • That you joined in touching your private parts or that of another person

  • That the touch of the private parts intended to arouse or offend the other person sexually

  • That you engaged in the lewd conduct in a public place or a place open to public view

  • That you participated in the lewd conduct while another person was present

  • That you knowingly participated in the lewd conduct that might have offended another person

If charged with the crime of lewd conduct in a way that you solicited another person to commit the crime, the prosecution must be able to prove:

  • That you requested another person to touch your private parts or that of someone else

  • That you asked for the lewd conduct to be committed in a public place or an area in public view

  • That your request aimed for sexual arousal or satisfaction

  • That you made the request intending the conduct to take place in an open area

  • That the person you requested to received the communication

  • That you knew that the offended person by the conduct would be present

For your conduct to be assumed offensive, the evidence of being seen by another person is required to meet the phrase, being fully aware of the consequences. It merely means that it must be likely and not a matter of possibilities that a person saw you and got offended. Our criminal lawyer distinguishes the two due to many years of experience.

Therefore, the prosecutor must prove all the above elements. If not, the charges might get dismissed with the use of strong defenses. Every case has its unique evidence and circumstances in which they occur. That is why it is vital to speak with our criminal lawyer and get informed about your specific criminal case.

Related Crimes Charged Along With Lewd Conduct

Lewd conduct simply means engaging in sexual petting and touching in public. Other crimes target similar but distinct behaviors. They include:

  1. Indecent Exposure PC 314

Indecent exposure is a crime of willfully exposing your genitals to another person in a public place to annoy or arouse. A conviction under PC 314 is very embarrassing as you have to register as a sex offender. Just like lewd conduct, indecent exposure is to stimulate yourself or another person sexually.

  1. Trespassing PC 602

Trespassing is entering into another person's private property without permission. There are times when the prosecutor is not ready to dismiss a lewd conduct charge completely. Instead, it reduces the charge to a lesser offense in exchange for a plea agreement. Mostly the trespassing crime is the plea bargain. Though the offense has nothing to do with the lewd conduct crime, it is an advantage to the accused as it carries less stigma. The crime is charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction.

  1. Disturbing Peace PC 415

Disturbing peace is another plea bargain that is used by the prosecutor. The statute that addresses PC 415 prohibits fighting in public, use of vulgar language, and unnecessary noise to disturb neighbors. It also carries a lesser penalty and stigma. If convicted of disturbing the peace, you get charged with an infraction.

  1. Loitering in Restrooms PC 647(d)

Penal Code 647(d) prohibits loitering in or about a public toilet with the intent of engaging or soliciting in lewd conduct. Loitering around a public restroom is not a crime. It becomes a crime if you intend to solicit or engage in lewd conduct. This crime is punished as a misdemeanor.

  1. Lewd Acts With A Minor PC 288

Penal Code 288 prohibits touching of a minor's body for sexual arousal purposes. Lewd conduct with a minor penalty is a felony. It will depend on the age of the minor and the accused criminal history. The accused can get probation or a lifetime sentence for subsequent offenders. You as well required to register as a lifetime sex offender if found guilty.

  1. "Peeping Tom" PC 647(i) and 647(j)

They are separate forms of lewd conduct. For instance, PC 647(a) protects the third party from sexually motivated conduct in public. But 647(i ) and 647(j) they protect acts done in secret. The subsection (i ) prohibits peeking in the door or window. Subsection (j) prohibits the use of a device like a camera to look at someone else's body without their consent secretly. The offenders are punished by up to six months in jail, $1,000 fine, and informal misdemeanor probation.

  1. Statutory Rape PC 261.5

Statutory rape is having unlawful sex with a minor. It is treated as a wobbler offense. The critical factor of this crime is the age difference between the defendant and the victim to determine its case trial. If the accused is 21 years older and the minor is under 16 years, the penalties are up to 4 years in county jail. If the minor is under 18 years, the penalties are civil, ranging from $2,000 to $25,000.

Contact an Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me

The criminal justice system is challenging and requires an attorney to help you navigate it. If you or your loved one is charged with lewd conduct, take advantage of our top lawyers at the Orange County Criminal Lawyer. We have combined talents, resources, and brainpower working together to achieve one goal, getting the best outcomes of our client's case. We are always ready to defend you both inside and outside the courtroom. Call us now at 714-262-4833 and we will be happy to serve you. You will have your questions answered and be guided through the legal process so that you may know what to expect.