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Lewd Acts in Public – California Penal Code 647(a) PC

Facing Charges of Soliciting or Engaging in Lewd Acts in Public?

California Penal Code section 647(a) prohibits a person from soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in public or in a place within public view. A conviction of this crime carries with it the possibility of jail time, as well as negatively impacting your reputation and your employment. As such, it is important that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney at Wallin & Klarich to represent you when facing charges of soliciting or engaging in a lewd act in a public place.

Accused of Soliciting or Engaging in Lewd Acts in Public
If you have been accused of soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in public, it is important to know what to expect.

California Penal Code Section 647(a) is straight forward, but the complexity is in the definition of the word “lewd.” Simply put, Penal Code Section 647(a) punishes an individual who:

“Solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.”

A lewd act is defined as any conduct that involves sexual gratification or other forms of sexual deviancy. In other words, any conduct in which moral principles are abandoned for some sort of deviant, sexual gratification is considered “lewd.” Most often, lewd acts are associated with child sex crimes, such as child molestation or touching a child in a sexual manner with the intent of sexual arousal.

Of course, Penal Code Section 647(a) is not limited to children, as you can be charged with a violation of Penal Code Section 647(a) for masturbating in a strip club or adult movie theater with other adult patrons nearby. Any sort of touching of the genitals, buttocks, or breast area of another person or yourself, can be a violation of Penal Code Section 647(a).

Lewd Conduct in Public PC 647(a) Prosecution in California

If you’re charged with soliciting or engaging in lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place in California, it is imperative that you are informed of what consequences you may face. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys want to explain to you what the prosecution needs to prove in order to convict you of this crime.

What must be Proven to be Found Guilty of Soliciting or Engaging in Dissolute or Lewd Conduct in Public in California

Soliciting or engaging in lewd conduct in a public place is listed under California Penal Code section 647(a).  In order to be found guilty of Penal Code section 647(a), the prosecution must prove the following:

Prosecution for lewd acts in public in California.
The prosecution must prove certain elements in your case in order for you to be found guilty of lewd acts in public.
  1. You willfully engaged in the touching of your own or another person’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast;
  2. You did so with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify yourself or another person, or to annoy or offend another person;
  3. At the time you engaged in the conduct, you were in a public place or a place open to the public or to public view;
  4. At the time you engaged in the conduct, someone else who might have been offended was present; AND
  5. You knew or reasonably should have known that another person who might have been offended by your conduct was present.

What is a Willful Act?

A willful act is defined as a purpose or willingness to commit the act.  It does not require any intent to violate law, to injure another, or to acquire any advantage.

Sexual Arousal or Gratification of Yourself or Another, or to Offend Another

Another way the prosecution can find you guilty is if they prove that you committed your conduct with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify yourself or another. In other words, there was no other purpose for your act other than sexual gratification. Simply put, the sole purpose of touching your genitals or the genitals of the other was purely sexual in nature; thus, sexual gratification can be established based on the areas touched.

However, you can also be found guilty by annoying or offending another person.  For example, rubbing or touching another person’s genital areas without permission or consent will constitute being highly offensive.

What Constitutes a Public Place?

In order to be found guilty of this crime, the conduct or touching must have been done in a public place. Areas deemed to be public places include, parks, public bathrooms, open sidewalk, and movie theaters.

Third Party Present

In order to be convicted of soliciting or engaging in dissolute or lewd conduct in a public place there must have been a third party present that could have viewed the touching or conduct. Not only must another person be present, but the Defendant must have reasonably known the conduct would have been offensive to the third party.  Therefore, it is not merely enough to have a third party present and witness the conduct.

Lewd Acts in Public – Defenses

When facing such serious allegations of soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in a public in California, you need an experienced defense attorney that will fight for you using all possible defenses.  There are various defenses that could result in a reduction of charges or a dismissal.  Here are some defenses that your sex crime lawyers at Wallin & Klarich can raise on your behalf:

Touching was Accidental

Any sort of accidental touching of another’s genitals, buttocks or breast area in a public area is not punishable under Penal Code Section 647(a). California Penal Code 647(a) only punishes willful touching of another. A simple brush upon another’s buttocks or accidental bumping into another’s buttocks is not willful conduct.

Lack of Sexual Gratification or Intent

In order to be found guilty of Penal Code Section 647(a), the touching must have been done with the intent of sexual arousal or sexual gratification or to annoy or offend.  There are occasions when intentionally touching someone in the buttocks is not done for sexual gratification. For example, athletes and coaches often slap the buttocks of their fellow teammates or players as a form of encouragement and not for sexual gratification.

Public place or Within Public View Requirement

The most important requirement is that the lewd act or conduct take place in a public place or within public view. These areas can include places such as a park, public bathroom, movie theater, open balcony or your unfenced front lawn. Therefore, any private enclosed areas where the lewd acts may have taken place are not sufficient to be found in violation of Penal Code Section 647(a).

Third party person must be present

In addition to the above defenses, the strongest defense is that no one was present when the lewd act occurred.  Even if you committed a lewd act in a public place or in an area within public view, you can not be found guilty of this offense if there was no one present to witness or to be offended by your lewd act.  Most importantly, you can not be convicted if there was a third party present, but that third party was not visible or was hiding in an area that was not known to the defendant.

Lewd Acts in Public: Penalties, Sentencing and Punishment – California Penal Code 647(a)

Under California Penal Code section 647(a), soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in a public place is punishable as a misdemeanor. Your attorneys at Wallin & Klarich explain in detail the penalties, punishment and sentencing attributed to the charges of soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in public in California.

Punishment for Misdemeanor Soliciting or Engaging in Lewd Acts in a Public Place

A misdemeanor soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in a public place is by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.

Court options at time of sentencing

If you are convicted for soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in a public place, the court has the sole discretion to determine your punishment based on certain circumstances. The court can do any of the following at the time of sentencing:

  • Place you on probation and impose a jail sentence of up to 6 months in county jail and pay a fine
  • Place you on probation and impose a fine but no jail sentence and instead order you to do community service or other work related release.

Probation Terms

Terms of probation for a lewd acts in public conviction.
It is important to closely follow all of the terms of your probation in to avoid being sentenced to serve additional jail time.

If placed on probation, you will likely be placed on informal or summary probation for three years.  The terms of your probation will likely include:

  • Not violate any laws
  • Obey all orders of the court
  • Disclose the terms of your probation to a law enforcement officer when asked
  • Use your true name and date of birth at all times
  • Pay all court fines and fees

This is not an exclusive list and that the court may impose additional terms of probation.  If you violate any terms of your probation you can be sentenced to serve a county jail sentence.

Lewd Acts in Public FAQs

1. What exactly is a lewd act under Penal Code Section 647(a)?

Lewd Conduct as defined under Penal Code Section 647(a) is any touching of your own, or another person’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast with lewd intent.

2. How would someone know if the touching was for sexual gratification?

It’s well established that when an individual touches another’s genital area, buttocks, or a female’s breast area, it is usually done for the sole purpose of sexual gratification.  Additionally, if it was a male suspect, police would often ask witnesses if they observed the male suspect have an erection prior to, or after the lewd act.  Also, police would likely determine if any statements, groans or moans were made by the defendant during the commission of the lewd act to support the evidence of sexual gratification.

3. Can my attorney get the charges reduced or dismissed?

In many cases we can do that.  An aggressive criminal defense attorney can negotiate your case to a lesser charge such as an infraction for disturbing the peace (Penal Code Section 415) or trespass (Penal Code Section 602).  In many other cases, we are able to have the charges dismissed.  This is critical to the future of the accused facing this type of sex crime.  Nobody wants a deviant “sexual offense” on their criminal record.

4. What is a willful act?

Any touching is considered “willful” if the act is done willingly or on purpose. So long as he/she intended the action, he/she may be criminally liable for a lewd act in a public place. Any sort of touching that was accidental or resulted from a intervening act is not willful.

Wallin & Klarich Will Fight for You

partners 2015 - driving on a suspended license
If you are accused of lewd acts in public, we will fight on your behalf.

If your are faced with criminal charges of soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in a public place, it is important that you contact an experienced California defense lawyer who is experienced with these cases. Your freedom is too important to risk and our team of attorneys is ready to take on your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, and Victorville, Wallin & Klarich has represented numerous clients faced with the charges of soliciting or engaging in lewd acts in a public place for over 30 years.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245. We will be there when you call.

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